[Ntp] Is one refid enough

Watson Ladd <watsonbladd@gmail.com> Thu, 05 September 2019 04:52 UTC

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From: Watson Ladd <watsonbladd@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 2019 21:52:40 -0700
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Subject: [Ntp] Is one refid enough
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Dear all,

On thinking about some of the discussion that emerged that came from
refids I've come to the conclusion that some of the uses people are
imagining for a complete chain aren't actually going to work, and we
might not even need any refid. Note that my experience in this area is
minimal: this should be more a suggestion of conversation then taken
extremely definitively.

The first use put forward was for redundancy: one would gather
intermediate sources until enough root sources were gathered. But this
isn't actually a reflection of the reliability: the NTP environment is
a graph, and the stratum 1 sources are the roots of a dynamically
created spanning tree. In particular if we have two stratum 1 sources
A and B, and two intermediates C and D, then if both C and D are using
both A and B then there is full redundency, even if both have better
connectivity and thus use A to synchronize with.

The second use was for preventing loop formation: by excluding a
source that has synchronized to you, this prevents loops. Let's take a
simple example: A and B are two stratum 1 sources, C and D take from A
and B respectively, and are peered. Because A is so much more stable C
synchronizes to it, and D synchronizes to C. Now assume that A goes
down. What should eventually result is C synchronizing with D and D
synchronizing to B. The question of which mechanism between using
reference IDs and accumulating errors/stratum will work better is not
obvious: it seems to me that not using reference IDs works just fine
in this example and provides faster recovery: C can synchronize to D
immediately as it is the best surviving timesource, and the error
accumulation eventually means D prefers B (in practice quite quickly)
vs. waiting for C to drift enough for D to switch before synchronizing
to D.

As I mentioned above I'm not that experienced in this part of NTP and
would appreciate any corrections on matters I may have misunderstood.

Sincerely,
Watson Ladd