Equinix Precision Time sources time from redundant GNSS (GPS) receivers with antennas strategically located within the Equinix IBX infrastructure. The master time sources distribute accurate time over Equinix Fabric, our high-performance network backbone.
The Need for Accurate Time
Clocks included in hardware systems are inexpensive quartz oscillators that have a tendency to drift. Inaccurate clocks result in inaccurate timing that can cause a loss of synchronization across networks. Timing inaccuracies can range from milliseconds to seconds, and even minutes, if left unchecked for an extended period of time. Such timing inaccuracies can result in network operational issues large enough to lead to mission failure.
When an application depends on accurate time, it must use a time source outside the built-in system clocks. If the application has Equinix Fabric connectivity, it can synchronize with the Precision Time time source for accurate time.
Equinix Precision Time provides these capabilities and options:
Time Protocols – Precision Time supports both the Network Time Protocol (NTPv3 and NTPv4) and the Precision Time Protocol (PTPv2).
To synchronize time, clients directly connect to the Equinix Precision Time NTP or PTP primary sources.
Service Tiers – Equinix provides different service tiers for the NTP and PTP protocols.
The service tier you choose determines the number of NTP or PTP clients you can synchronize on your side using direct connections to the Precision Time NTP or PTP primary sources. For more on direct connectivity, see Network Models and Time Synchronization.
The following table provides an estimation of the number of clients you can synchronize per second at a packet rate of 1 per second. Client rates are shown for both the NTP and PTP protocols. Keep in mind the actual number of clients you can synchronize depends on the combination and configuration of your system hardware.
The following table lists the approximate number of client synchronizations per second:
Standard Service Tier
Enterprise Service Tier
Network Time Protocol
Precision Time Protocol
Accuracy – For PTP, Precision Time ensures an accuracy of 50 microseconds from UTC.
The actual time accuracy you achieve is based on a combination of the consumption model in use and the physical distance between the client device and the Precision Time service location. In practice, our experience shows your end devices might achieve even greater accuracy than the listed tolerance.
- Availability – The high reliability of the service is made possible by multiple levels of redundancy in the architecture.
- Every region has at least two metros that serve as the sources of time.
- For North and South America, you can connect to either one or both service locations – Silicon Valley (SV) and New York (NY).
- Each of these metros has redundant GNSS (GPS) receivers with the antennas and time server infrastructure in at least two geo-distributed data centers (IBXs).
- Once you select one or both service locations, this level of redundancy is available to you automatically. For example, if a data center becomes unavailable in SV or NY, your devices continue to receive accurate time from one of the other locations.
- Within each of these data centers, Precision Time connects your services to two timing masters that act as primary and secondary masters over a redundant switching infrastructure.
Security – Precision Time time is distributed over Equinix Fabric, a state-of-the-art private network, so time packets are never exposed to the public internet.
Precision Time infrastructure is installed and secured inside Equinix state-of-the-art IBX data centers. Our data centers meet the highest standards of security, certification, and sustainability. Additionally, Equinix Precision Time services can only be provisioned using the Precision Time portal, which requires authentication using the same Equinix customer credentials used by other Equinix portals (such as ECP or Equinix Fabric).
Monitoring and Alerting – Equinix Precision Time monitors performance and collects data from both the Timing Master and SLA monitoring servers in remote IBX data centers. Alerts are generated and sent to support teams for analysis. Alarms are triggered when SLA thresholds are breached, or when outages threaten Precision Time performance, so that potential problems can be addressed before they become issues.
Getting accurate time is an important requirement for both consumer and business applications. Although the required level of reliability, security, and accuracy depends on individual use cases, security and reliability are critical for all enterprise applications. In certain vertical markets, mission critical applications require the highest possible degrees of precision to meet regulatory compliance and mandates.
- Financial Services – High-frequency trading platforms require accurate time (single digit microseconds or better) to maintain an ordered sequence of transactions. The trading ecosystem is composed of digital stock and commodities exchanges, traders, and FinTech companies.
- Enterprise Applications – As applications become more geographically distributed, systems are challenged to distribute transactional databases, ensure the accuracy of ordering logs, and analyze and prevent online attacks. A narrow-drift offset from a secure and reliable time source is necessary to resolve these challenges.
- Broadcasting – Audio and video feeds are sent separately to end devices. If the time between these feeds is not synchronized, “lip sync” errors can occur, degrading the quality of service. Accordingly, the broadcasting industry has specific standards (SMPTE 2110) for accurate time synchronization between the audio and video feeds.
- Gaming – Online gaming and e-sports platforms require accurate time synchronization to ensure proper functionality (for example, a bullet hitting a target), and the correct order of play in multi-player games. This problem grows when players are geographically distributed.
- Telecommunications – Telecom service providers are required to maintain precise synchronization of their infrastructure. Managing billing and other customer facing infrastructure also requires accurate timing. Poor timing synchronization can result in dropped calls, poor customer service, and unreliable data.
- Manufacturing – To maintain seamless manufacturing processes, manufacturing operations (including process automation, MRP systems, and logistics systems) have become reliant on accurate time synchronization across all systems and infrastructure.
Using Anycast to distribute EPT service – When users have larger NTP network requirements or needs across a network domain, Network Edge with Anycast topology can be considered for NTP-only service distribution. See Use Case Example for details about this topology and configuration.