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NTP vs. PTP—Which Is Right for Your Application?

Posted on Oct 20, 2023 by
2.8k

Industrial Switch

In the realm of industrial switches and precise time synchronization, two protocols often come into play: NTP (Network Time Protocol) and PTP (Precision Time Protocol). Both are instrumental in ensuring seamless operations within industrial networks, but they differ significantly in their functionalities and use cases. In this blog post, we'll delve into the intricacies of these protocols, exploring the differences between PTP and NTP and helping you determine the right one for your specific application.

NTP vs. PTP Explained

NTP (Network Time Protocol)

NTP is a widely used time synchronization protocol designed for general timekeeping needs in computer networks. It is suitable for tasks like ensuring accurate time on computers, servers, and network devices. NTP can be used over the Internet and is commonly employed to synchronize the clocks of devices across a network. NTP operates in a hierarchical structure, with stratum 0 servers at the top, such as atomic clocks and GPS receivers, providing time to stratum 1 servers, which then serve stratum 2 servers, and so on. Clients synchronize their clocks with servers of a higher stratum.

Industrial switch

NTP typically achieves sub-millisecond accuracy on a local network and a few milliseconds over the internet, depending on network conditions and server accuracy. It is effective in scenarios where the requirement for time accuracy is not overly stringent.

NTP is known for its ubiquity and simplicity, widely supported across various operating systems and network devices. It provides internet synchronization between the devices and and supports use in authentication systems like Kerberos. However, NTP's precision is typically limited to the millisecond level, making it unsuitable for highly time-sensitive applications. It primarily relies on one-way communication, which can result in reduced accuracy in high-latency network environments, and it's susceptible to network variability like congestion and jitter.

PTP (Precision Time Protocol)

PTP is a highly accurate time synchronization protocol used in industries and applications where precise time is critical, such as telecommunications, finance, and industrial automation. PTP achieves this by calculating the network propagation delay and compensating for it, enabling synchronized actions within nanosecond accuracy. It relies on hardware-based timekeeping mechanisms and is typically implemented on dedicated network equipment like grandmaster clocks and boundary clocks.

Industrial switch

PTP follows the IEEE 1588 standard, with variations like PTPv1 (1588-2002) and PTPv2 (1588-2008) being commonly used. It can achieve sub-microsecond or even nanosecond accuracy, depending on hardware quality and network conditions, making it ideal for scenarios demanding extreme time precision.

Compared to NTP, PTP offers accurate time stamping and the possibility of setting coordinated actions which are synchronized communication. However, its configuration and maintenance can be complex, typically requiring specialized hardware and coming at a higher cost. Additionally, it's not as widely supported, limiting its use in some network environments.

Differences Between NTP and PTP

NTP and PTP both provide time synchronization over a packet-based network, but they have distinct differences:

Feature NTP (Network Time Protocol) PTP (Precision Time Protocol)
Accuracy Millisecond to sub-millisecond accuracy Sub-microsecond accuracy
Topology Client-server hierarchical topology Peer-to-peer topology
Hardware Requirements Standard Ethernet hardware Specialized hardware required
Message Exchange Request-response mechanism Multi-step, two-way message exchange
Design Scope designed to use in public networks and Wide Area Network’s (WAN). designed in versions such as Version-1 for Local Area Network’s (LAN) and Version-2 for Wide Area Network’s (WAN).
Security provide security through Hash codes and improved clock selection. provide security through cryptography security mechanisms.
Applications Widely used for clock synchronization on the internet and in various enterprise and public network settings. Used in IT applications, generic time-stamping applications, and synchronization of computers, etc.

Appropriate Protocol for Your Application

The differences between NTP and PTP determine that they are not exclusively intended for the same applications. How to choose between them should be based on your specific synchronization precision requirements, available resources, and the criticality of your applications.

NTP is the preferred solution for applications where synchronization accuracy within the millisecond range is sufficient. It is a straightforward and cost-effective choice for such scenarios. NTP is known for its reliability, robustness, and ease of configuration, and it does not necessitate special network configurations or equipment. The typical applications for NTP include clock synchronization and log file management.

PTP becomes essential when a higher level of precision is required. PTP can achieve sub-microsecond or even nanosecond levels of accuracy, thanks to hardware timestamping. Achieving this high level of precision necessitates timestamping close to the network infrastructure, which, in turn, requires dedicated hardware and network engineering. PTP is commonly used in various applications such as telecom for base station synchronization, traffic control to synchronize different control equipment or sites, broadcast for audio and video equipment synchronization, energy for substation synchronization, and banking to achieve synchronization for high-speed trading.

Consider the nature of your operations, the level of precision needed, and the potential consequences of time discrepancies to make an informed decision. Assessing these factors will guide you towards the protocol that aligns perfectly with your requirements.

Industrial switch

NTP vs. PTP: FS Provides Both Solutions

At FS.com, we understand the diverse needs of industrial networks. That's why we offer a range of industrial switches compatible with both PTP and NTP protocols. Our switches are engineered to deliver reliable performance and seamless synchronization, ensuring your operations run smoothly and efficiently.

Whether you require the precision of PTP or the flexibility of NTP, our industrial switches are designed to meet your demands. With our cutting-edge technology and commitment to quality, you can trust FS.com to provide the ideal solution for your network synchronization needs.

Protocol 
FS P/N
NTP
IES3110-16TF, IES5100-24TF, IES3100-8T4F-P, IES5100-16TS, IES5100-24FS, IES3100-16TM,
IES5110-20FMS
PTP
IES3100-8TF-P, IES3110-8TFP-R, IES3110-8TF-R, IES3100-8TF, IES3110-8TF, IES3110-24TF,
IES3110-8TF-P, IES5100-24TS-P, IES3110-8M12, IES3110-8TFM-P

Conclusion

In the realm of industrial networking, choosing the right time synchronization protocol is paramount. NTP and PTP cater to different levels of precision, enabling businesses to align their operations with accuracy. When making your decision, assess the criticality of time accuracy in your operations. Stay synchronized, stay efficient—choose FS.com for your industrial networking needs.

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