NTF Awarded 2023 ARIN Community Grant

September 11, 2023 by Dru Lavigne

The NTP Project at Network Time Foundation is thrilled to be a recipient of a 2023 ARIN Community Grant for the creation of an NTP TCP Services Daemon. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) is a nonprofit, member-based organization that supports the operation and growth of the Internet.

Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a UDP-based system to distribute and synchronize time on network devices. While the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is the best-known choice for time synchronization on general networks, it is not a great choice for access, authentication, key exchange, management, monitoring, or several other functions. TCP-based communications are a better choice for these.

Harlan Stenn, Project Manager for the NTP Project says that “the team has been contemplating how to best use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) to implement the aforementioned functions for many years’ time, and its development and deployment have been waiting for the resources to make it happen”.

The goal of this funded effort is to provide a basic TCP-based framework service that acts as a broker between the NTP Project’s Reference Implementation and subscribed NTP servers, and external monitoring and management agents and NTP clients. Once this basic framework is in place, additional work will be done to add a variety of new features.

This work facilitates the eventual means to:

  1. securely authenticate to the services broker,
  2. obtain different levels of authorization for services,
  3. monitor the behavior of subscribed ntpd instances,
  4. allow systems and network administrators to manage subscribed ntpd instances, and
  5. efficiently negotiate ephemeral keys to be used to authenticate and secure NTP transactions between NTP clients and subscribed NTP servers. It will allow for easily adding additional functionality as needs arise.

Direct beneficiaries of this work include those responsible for timekeeping in their organization, monitoring and compliance teams, time service operators, and their client populations.

Indirect beneficiaries of this work include downstream users who rely on any systems that synchronize time with NTP.

Accurate and synchronized time is critical to logging/SCADA, any systems that additionally require monotonic time (database and other reservation-oriented systems), and many other applications.

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