Keeping your physical or virtual lab or production environment’s time in sync is important. There are many applications, operating systems and some hardware devices which depend on the services or devices it communicates with to also have their time in sync within an extremely small margin.
The pool.ntp.org project is a big virtual cluster of timeservers providing a reliable easy to use NTP (Network Time Protocol) service. “The Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a protocol for synchronizing the clocks of computer systems over packet-switched, variable-latency data networks.” (source: Wikipedia). Oh, and did I mention the ntp.org NTP service is free with NTP servers available throughout the world?
There are commercial time sync services available along with dedicated devices which can sit in your server room or datacentre that act as a centralised reliable NTP time source. Dedicated reliable NTP devices are often used for businesses who operate in sectors such as finance where sub-second accuracy time precision is essential, for example on financial transactions. Of course this level of time synchronisation within the IT infrastructure or core systems isn’t required by many businesses where a deviation of a second or two can be acceptable.
So for those of you on a budget or where exact time synchronisation isn’t required (eg: a couple of seconds deviation) take a look at the ntp.org service which provides an internet based centralised time service to which you can synchronise your IT environment against. Of course the device or service which is requesting the time service will require access to the internet, though you could have one central device within your infrastructure synchronise it’s time from ntp.org and then point the other devices and services through to this single internal device, keeping it mind it would need to be running an NTP service. This internal single NTP source configuration is preferable in most production environments.
I have been using pool.ntp.org for my own VMware vSphere lab environment and some general production environments (where appropriate) for a number of years now and have found it a good NTP service to use. In fact I’m sure many of you have used it or are currently using this NTP service from NTP Pool in some capacity.
If this sounds like something of interest head on over to the NTP Pool Project site here for more information.