Internet-Draft NTP Over PTP May 2022
Lichvar Expires 1 December 2022 [Page]
Internet Engineering Task Force
Intended Status:
Standards Track
M. Lichvar
Red Hat



This document specifies a transport for the Network Time Protocol (NTP) client-server mode using the Precision Time Protocol (PTP) to enable hardware timestamping on hardware that can timestamp PTP messages but not NTP messages.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

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This Internet-Draft will expire on 1 December 2022.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The Precision Time Protocol (PTP) [IEEE1588] was designed for highly accurate synchronization of clocks in a network. It relies on hardware timestamping supported in network devices (e.g. interface controllers, switches, and routers) to eliminate the impact of processing and queueing delays on PTP measurements.

PTP was originally designed for multicast communication. Later was added a unicast mode, which can be used in larger networks with partial on-path PTP support (e.g. telecom profiles G.8265.1 and G.8275.2).

The Network Time Protocol [RFC5905] does not rely on hardware timestamping support, but implementations can use it if it is available to avoid the impact of processing and queueing delays, similarly to PTP. The client-server mode of NTP is functionally similar to the PTP unicast mode.

An issue for NTP is hardware that can specifically timestamp only PTP packets. This limitation comes from their design, which does not allow the timestamps to be captured or retrieved at the same rate as packets can be received or transmitted. A filter needs to be implemented in the hardware to inspect each packet and timestamp only those that actually need it. The filter can be usually configured for the PTP transport (e.g. UDPv4, UDPv6, 802.3) and sometimes even the message type (e.g. sync message or delay request) to further reduce the rate of timestamps on the server or client side. This limitation prevents hardware timestamping of NTP messages. It also prevents timestamping of PTP messages if they are secured at the transport layer or below (e.g. IPSec or MACSec).

This document specifies a new transport for NTP to enable the PTP-specific timestamping support. It adds a new extension field (TLV) for PTP to contain NTP messages.

NTP over PTP does not disrupt normal operation of PTP. A network and even a single host can support both at the same time.

The specification does not take advantage of the PTP correctionField modified by PTP transparent clocks as their support for the unicast mode seems to be rare or nonexistent.

The client/server mode of NTP, even if using the PTP transport, has several advantages when compared to the PTP unicast mode:

1.1. Requirements Language

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

2. PTP transport for NTP

A new TLV is defined for PTP to contain NTP messages in the client, server, and symmetric modes. Using other NTP modes in the TLV is not specified. Any transport specified for PTP that supports unicast messaging can be used for NTP over PTP, e.g. UDP on IPv4 and IPv6.

The type value of the NTP TLV is TBD. The TLV contains the whole NTP message as would normally be the UDP payload, without any modifications. The TLV does not propagate through boundary clocks.

If the UDP transport is used for PTP, the UDP source and destination port numbers MUST be the PTP event port (319). Client port randomization would break the timestamping.

The NTP TLV MUST be included in a delay request message. The originTimestamp field and all fields of the header SHOULD be zero, except:

An NTP client using the PTP transport sends NTP requests in PTP messages to the server at the same rate as it would normally send them over UDP.

A server which supports the NTP TLV MUST check for the domainNumber of 123 and respond to an NTP request with a single PTP message containing the NTP response using the same PTP message format. It MUST NOT send a delay response message.

A server which does not support the NTP TLV will not recognize the domain number and ignore the message. If it responded to messages in the domain (e.g. due to misconfiguration), it would send a delay response (to port 320 if using the UDP transport), which would be ignored by the client.

Any authenticator fields included in the NTP messages MUST be calculated only over the NTP message following the header of the NTP TLV.

Timestamps SHOULD NOT be adjusted for the beginning of the NTP data in the PTP message. They SHOULD still correspond to the ending of the transmission and beginning of the reception (e.g. start of delimiter in the Ethernet frame).

Any modifications of the correctionField made by potential one-step end-to-end transparent clocks in the network SHOULD be ignored by the server and client.


This section records the status of known implementations of the protocol defined by this specification at the time of posting of this Internet-Draft, and is based on a proposal described in RFC 7942. The description of implementations in this section is intended to assist the IETF in its decision processes in progressing drafts to RFCs. Please note that the listing of any individual implementation here does not imply endorsement by the IETF. Furthermore, no effort has been spent to verify the information presented here that was supplied by IETF contributors. This is not intended as, and must not be construed to be, a catalog of available implementations or their features. Readers are advised to note that other implementations may exist.

According to RFC 7942, "this will allow reviewers and working groups to assign due consideration to documents that have the benefit of running code, which may serve as evidence of valuable experimentation and feedback that have made the implemented protocols more mature. It is up to the individual working groups to use this information as they see fit".

3.1. chrony

chrony ( has experimental support for PTP-over-NTP in its development branch. As the type of the NTP TLV, it uses 0x2023 from the experimental "do not propagate" range.

It was tested on Linux with the following network controllers, which have hardware timestamping limited to PTP packets:

4. Security Considerations

The PTP transport prevents NTP clients from randomizing their source port. It has no other impact on security of NTP.

5. References

5.1. Normative References

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, "IEEE std. 1588-2019, "IEEE Standard for a Precision Clock Synchronization for Networked Measurement and Control Systems."", , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Mills, D., Martin, J., Ed., Burbank, J., and W. Kasch, "Network Time Protocol Version 4: Protocol and Algorithms Specification", RFC 5905, DOI 10.17487/RFC5905, , <>.

5.2. Informative References

Franke, D., Sibold, D., Teichel, K., Dansarie, M., and R. Sundblad, "Network Time Security for the Network Time Protocol", RFC 8915, DOI 10.17487/RFC8915, , <>.

Author's Address

Miroslav Lichvar
Red Hat
Purkynova 115
612 00 Brno
Czech Republic