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Document Type Active Internet-Draft (candidate for ntp WG)
Author Miroslav Lichvar
Last updated 2022-07-29 (Latest revision 2022-05-30)
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Internet Engineering Task Force                               M. Lichvar
Internet-Draft                                                   Red Hat
Intended status: Standards Track                             30 May 2022
Expires: 1 December 2022

                              NTP Over PTP


   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.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 1 December 2022.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2022 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Revised BSD License text as
   described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Revised BSD License.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  Requirements Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  PTP transport for NTP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Implementation Status - RFC EDITOR: REMOVE BEFORE
           PUBLICATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.1.  chrony  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     5.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     5.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6

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

   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).

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   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:

   *  It is more secure.  It can use existing security mechanisms
      specified for NTP like Network Time Security [RFC8915], not losing
      any of its features.  The PTP unicast mode allows an almost-
      infinite traffic amplification, which can be exploited for denial-
      of-service attacks and can only be limited by security mechanisms
      using client authentication.

   *  It needs fewer messages and less network bandwith to get the same
      number of timestamps.

   *  It is better suited for synchronization in networks without full
      on-path support.  It does not assume the network delay is constant
      and the number of measurements in opposite directions is symmetric
      (in PTP sync messages and delay requests have independent timing).

1.1.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   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.

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   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,

   *  messageType is 1 (delay request)

   *  versionPTP is 2

   *  messageLength is the length of the PTP message including the NTP

   *  domainNumber is 123

   *  flagField has the unicastFlag (0x4) bit set

   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

   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.

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   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

   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:

      Intel XL710 (i40e driver) - works

      Intel X540-AT2 (ixgbe driver) - works

      Intel 82576 (igb driver) - works

      Broadcom BCM5720 (tg3 driver) - works

      Broadcom BCM57810 (bnx2x driver) - does not timestamp unicast PTP

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

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5.1.  Normative References

   [IEEE1588] Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, "IEEE
              std. 1588-2019, "IEEE Standard for a Precision Clock
              Synchronization for Networked Measurement and Control
              Systems."", November 2019, <>.

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC5905]  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, June 2010,

5.2.  Informative References

   [RFC8915]  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, September 2020,

Author's Address

   Miroslav Lichvar
   Red Hat
   Purkynova 115
   612 00 Brno
   Czech Republic

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