NTP Accuracy

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

At a party this past week, the question came up about how accurate NTP could be.  The need was accuracy under 1ms.  Interesting question and I’ve never looked for that accuracy.  I thought that somewhere I had read that it was possible to get to around 10us, but didn’t have any concrete data.  So off to Google’s search engine.

There are several articles on NTP accuracy.  The best of them seems to be one by Dave Mills (the primary investigator on NTP).  NTP v4 with kernel mods to support it, is capable of much better than 1ms accuracy, possibly as good as 1ns.  According to his article, NTP v3 is accurate to 1-2ms in a LAN and 10s of ms in WAN nets. http://www.cis.udel.edu/~mills/ntp.html

Other articles suggest that with an accurate time source, such as a GPS time source, NTP is accurate to 50us, but the links on the Linux kernel support say that accuracy of a few ms are possible. http://www.atomic-clock.galleon.eu.com/support/ntp-time-server-accuracy.html

Another article says that it is dependent on the predictability of network delays (i.e. a low jitter network). http://www.postel.org/pipermail/end2end-interest/2003-April/002925.html

So, the typical network answer applies: “It Depends”.



Re-posted with Permission 

NetCraftsmen would like to acknowledge Infoblox for their permission to re-post this article which originally appeared in the Applied Infrastructure blog under http://www.infoblox.com/en/communities/blogs.html


Leave a Reply


Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.