Edge Precision Time

Product Overview and Features

Edge Precision Time (EPT) provides reliable, secure and precise Time-as-a-Service for distributed enterprise applications. The service sources time from strategically located redundant GPS antennas and associated clock infrastructure, and distributes the time over the high-performance network backbone of ECX FabricECX Fabric is an advanced interconnection solution that improves performance by providing a direct, private network connection.

Edge Precision Time provides the following capabilities:

  • Protocols: EPT supports Network Time Protocol (NTPv3 and NTPv4) and Precision Time Protocol (PTPv2).
  • Service Tiers: EPT provides two types of services – an EPT NTP service and an EPT PTP service. In turn, each type of service has two tiers of service:

    • Standard: Provides necessary bandwidth for most customer cases. (For example, for PTP, this can serve up to 100 clients.)
    • Enterprise: Provides higher bandwidth to support more clients. (For example, for PTP, this can serve up to 200 clients.)

    The choice of service tier determines the number of NTP/PTP clients that the customer can spin up on their side and which will get time from our EPT NTP/PTP master.

  • Precision: EPT provides a PTP accuracy of 50 microseconds that’s made possible by GPS antennas synchronizing time from GNSS satellites, the low-jitter network of ECX Fabric and patent-pending technology developed by Equinix. However, the level of accuracy observed in most locations is much lower than 50 microseconds.
  • Reliability: The reliability of the service is made possible by multiple levels of redundancy in the architecture.
    • Every region will have at least two metros that will serve as the sources of time.
    • Each of these metros will have redundant GPS antennas and time server infrastructure in at least two IBXs.
    • Each of these IBXs will have two NTP/PTP master servers connected to a redundant switching infrastructure, in turn connected to primary and secondary ports on ECX Fabric.
  • Security: The service can only be provisioned via the Edge Services portal that authenticates users using the existing Equinix customer credentials as used by other Equinix portals such as ECP, ECX Fabric portal, etc. The time is sourced and distributed over ECX Fabric, so the time signals are never exposed to the Internet.
  • Availability: In the initial rollout of the service, it will be available in all North American IBXs that are on ECX Fabric. In the months following the initial release, the service will be made available in EMEA and AP.
  • (Optional) Monitoring Service: This is an optional component of the service that enables customers to monitor the precision level that they get on their equipment that run the NTP/PTP client. This is enabled by Equinix-developed NTP/PTP client software that customers download on their equipment. The software periodically sends metrics to our service, and customers can view that on the EPT dashboard.

Use Cases

Getting time is a necessary capability for all applications – consumer or business. The level of reliability, security and precision depends on the use case. While security and reliability are must-haves for all enterprise applications, certain industry and verticals have use cases that need a higher degree of precision.

  • Financial Services: High-frequency trading platforms need highly precise time (in the order of nanoseconds to single digit microseconds) to maintain an ordered sequence of transactions. The trading ecosystem comprises of stock and commodities exchanges, traders and FinTech companies that provide digital services to this space.
  • Enterprise Applications: As applications are becoming increasingly geographically distributed, it’s challenging to distribute transactional databases, accuraly ordering logs, preventing and analyzing online attacks. A narrow drift offset from a secure and reliable time source is necessary to solve for these challenges.
  • Broadcasting: Audio and video feeds are sent separately to end devices. If the time between these feeds is not synchronized, it results in “lip sync” errors. Accordingly, the broadcasting industry has specific standards (SMPTE 2110), requiring accurate time synchronizarion between these feeds.
  • Gaming: Online gaming and e-sports platforms require precise time synchronization in order to ensure the proper functioning of their games (for example, a bullet hitting a target), and the chronological order of play in multi-player games. This problem becomes especially exasperated when the players are in geographically distributed locations.
  • Telecommunications: Telecom use cases such as VoIP need precise time synchronization for accurate billing. Cable and Internet providers rely on accurate time synchronization for pairing consumer devices. Mobile operators need accurate time for tower-to-tower voice syncs.
  • Manufacturing: Robotics and automated operations are becoming increasingly popular on the manufacturing floor, requiring precise time synchronization across these different digital systems.