Applies to openSUSE Leap 42.1

18 Time Synchronization with NTP

Abstract

The NTP (network time protocol) mechanism is a protocol for synchronizing the system time over the network. First, a machine can obtain the time from a server that is a reliable time source. Second, a machine can itself act as a time source for other computers in the network. The goal is twofold—maintaining the absolute time and synchronizing the system time of all machines within a network.

Maintaining an exact system time is important in many situations. The built-in hardware clock does often not meet the requirements of applications such as databases or clusters. Manual correction of the system time would lead to severe problems because, for example, a backward leap can cause malfunction of critical applications. Within a network, it is usually necessary to synchronize the system time of all machines, but manual time adjustment is a bad approach. NTP provides a mechanism to solve these problems. The NTP service continuously adjusts the system time with the help of reliable time servers in the network. It further enables the management of local reference clocks, such as radio-controlled clocks.

Note
Note

To enable time synchronization by means of active directory, follow the instructions found at .

18.1 Configuring an NTP Client with YaST

The NTP daemon (ntpd) coming with the ntp package is preset to use the local computer clock as a time reference. Using the hardware clock, however, only serves as a fallback for cases where no time source of better precision is available. YaST simplifies the configuration of an NTP client.

18.1.1 Basic Configuration

The YaST NTP client configuration (Network Services › NTP Configuration) consists of tabs. Set the start mode of ntpd and the server to query on the General Settings tab.

Only Manually

Select Only Manually, if you want to manually start the ntpd daemon.

Now and On Boot

Select Now and On Boot to start ntpd automatically when the system is booted. This setting is strongly recommended.

18.1.2 Changing Basic Configuration

The servers and other time sources for the client to query are listed in the lower part of the General Settings tab. Modify this list as needed with Add, Edit, and Delete. Display Log provides the possibility to view the log files of your client.

Click Add to add a new source of time information. In the following dialog, select the type of source with which the time synchronization should be made. The following options are available:

YaST: NTP Server
Figure 18.1: YaST: NTP Server
Server

In the pull-down Select list (see Figure 18.1, “YaST: NTP Server”), determine whether to set up time synchronization using a time server from your local network (Local NTP Server) or an Internet-based time server that takes care of your time zone (Public NTP Server). For a local time server, click Lookup to start an SLP query for available time servers in your network. Select the most suitable time server from the list of search results and exit the dialog with OK. For a public time server, select your country (time zone) and a suitable server from the list under Public NTP Server then exit the dialog with OK. In the main dialog, test the availability of the selected server with Test. Options allows you to specify additional options for ntpd.

Using Access Control Options, you can restrict the actions that the remote computer can perform with the daemon running on your computer. This field is enabled only after checking Restrict NTP Service to Configured Servers Only on the Security Settings tab (see Figure 18.2, “Advanced NTP Configuration: Security Settings”). The options correspond to the restrict clauses in /etc/ntp.conf. For example, nomodify notrap noquery disallows the server to modify NTP settings of your computer and to use the trap facility (a remote event logging feature) of your NTP daemon. Using these restrictions is recommended for servers out of your control (for example, on the Internet).

Refer to /usr/share/doc/packages/ntp-doc (part of the ntp-doc package) for detailed information.

Peer

A peer is a machine to which a symmetric relationship is established: it acts both as a time server and as a client. To use a peer in the same network instead of a server, enter the address of the system. The rest of the dialog is identical to the Server dialog.

Radio Clock

To use a radio clock in your system for the time synchronization, enter the clock type, unit number, device name, and other options in this dialog. Click Driver Calibration to fine-tune the driver. Detailed information about the operation of a local radio clock is available in /usr/share/doc/packages/ntp-doc/refclock.html.

Outgoing Broadcast

Time information and queries can also be transmitted by broadcast in the network. In this dialog, enter the address to which such broadcasts should be sent. Do not activate broadcasting unless you have a reliable time source like a radio controlled clock.

Incoming Broadcast

If you want your client to receive its information via broadcast, enter the address from which the respective packets should be accepted in this fields.

Advanced NTP Configuration: Security Settings
Figure 18.2: Advanced NTP Configuration: Security Settings

In the Security Settings tab (see Figure 18.2, “Advanced NTP Configuration: Security Settings”), determine whether ntpd should be started in a chroot jail. By default, Run NTP Daemon in Chroot Jail is activated. This increases the security in the event of an attack over ntpd, as it prevents the attacker from compromising the entire system.

Restrict NTP Service to Configured Servers Only increases the security of your system by disallowing remote computers to view and modify NTP settings of your computer and to use the trap facility for remote event logging. After being enabled, these restrictions apply to all remote computers, unless you override the access control options for individual computers in the list of time sources in the General Settings tab. For all other remote computers, only querying for local time is allowed.

Enable Open Port in Firewall if SuSEFirewall2 is active (which it is by default). If you leave the port closed, it is not possible to establish a connection to the time server.

18.2 Manually Configuring NTP in the Network

The easiest way to use a time server in the network is to set server parameters. For example, if a time server called ntp.example.com is reachable from the network, add its name to the file /etc/ntp.conf by adding the following line:

server ntp.example.com

To add more time servers, insert additional lines with the keyword server. After initializing ntpd with the command systemctl start ntp, it takes about one hour until the time is stabilized and the drift file for correcting the local computer clock is created. With the drift file, the systematic error of the hardware clock can be computed as soon as the computer is powered on. The correction is used immediately, resulting in a higher stability of the system time.

There are two possible ways to use the NTP mechanism as a client: First, the client can query the time from a known server in regular intervals. With many clients, this approach can cause a high load on the server. Second, the client can wait for NTP broadcasts sent out by broadcast time servers in the network. This approach has the disadvantage that the quality of the server is unknown and a server sending out wrong information can cause severe problems.

If the time is obtained via broadcast, you do not need the server name. In this case, enter the line broadcastclient in the configuration file /etc/ntp.conf. To use one or more known time servers exclusively, enter their names in the line starting with servers.

18.3 Dynamic Time Synchronization at Runtime

If the system boots without network connection, ntpd starts up, but it cannot resolve DNS names of the time servers set in the configuration file. This can happen if you use NetworkManager with an encrypted Wi-Fi.

If you want ntpd to resolve DNS names at runtime, you must set the dynamic option. Then, when the network is establish some time after booting, ntpd looks up the names again and can reach the time servers to get the time.

Manually edit /etc/ntp.conf and add dynamic to one or more server entries:

server ntp.example.com dynamic

Or use YaST and proceed as follows:

  1. In YaST click Network Services › NTP Configuration.

  2. Select the server you want to configure. Then click Edit.

  3. Activate the Options field and add dynamic. Separate it with a space, if there are already other options entered.

  4. Click Ok to close the edit dialog. Repeat the previous step to change all servers as wanted.

  5. Finally click Ok to save the settings.

18.4 Setting Up a Local Reference Clock

The software package ntpd contains drivers for connecting local reference clocks. A list of supported clocks is available in the ntp-doc package in the file /usr/share/doc/packages/ntp-doc/refclock.html. Every driver is associated with a number. In NTP, the actual configuration takes place by means of pseudo IP addresses. The clocks are entered in the file /etc/ntp.conf as though they existed in the network. For this purpose, they are assigned special IP addresses in the form 127.127.t.u. Here, t stands for the type of the clock and determines which driver is used and u for the unit, which determines the interface used.

Normally, the individual drivers have special parameters that describe configuration details. The file /usr/share/doc/packages/ntp-doc/drivers/driverNN.html (where NN is the number of the driver) provides information about the particular type of clock. For example, the type 8 clock (radio clock over serial interface) requires an additional mode that specifies the clock more precisely. The Conrad DCF77 receiver module, for example, has mode 5. To use this clock as a preferred reference, specify the keyword prefer. The complete server line for a Conrad DCF77 receiver module would be:

server 127.127.8.0 mode 5 prefer

Other clocks follow the same pattern. Following the installation of the ntp-doc package, the documentation for NTP is available in the directory /usr/share/doc/packages/ntp-doc. The file /usr/share/doc/packages/ntp-doc/refclock.html provides links to the driver pages describing the driver parameters.

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