B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro
B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro

Episode · 3 months ago

The Importance of Network Time Synchronization

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Why is it so important to have the correct synchronized time across your entire network? And what’s the best way to go about doing it?

Shelby Skrhak speaks with Paul Skoog, Sr. Product Manager, Microchip, about:

- Network time servers

- Why log file timestamps are useful

- Potential issues with using “free time” from the internet

- How the SyncServer offers security and reliability

For more information on network time servers, reach out to Ricky Needham (richard.needham@ingrammicro.com) or visit Microchip.

To join the discussion, follow us on Twitter @IngramTechSol #B2BTechTalk
Listen to this episode and more like it by subscribing to B2B Tech Talk on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or, tune in on our website. 

...you are listening to B to B tech talkwith ingram Micro. The place to learn about new technology and technologicaladvances before they become mainstream. This episode is sponsored by ingrammicro security, strengthen your security practice. Let's get into it.Welcome to B B tech talk with ingram Micro. I'm your host Shelby skirt talk.My guest today is paul spoke senior product manager for Arizona basedmicrochip technology. Paul. Welcome. Thank you very much Shelby. It's niceto be here chatting with you. Excellent. Well, you know, today we're talkingabout the importance of network time synchronization. It's basically youknow, having a network clock or a time server that we can trust really to beaccurate, secure and reliable. So paul, will you dive in a little bit to themechanics of network time servers? I mean how do they operate? How does itwork? Well, you know, that's a really good question that we get askedfrequently. In short. It is a very accurate clock. Okay. Our time serverscalled a sync server and it gets this time from the GPS satellite system byway of an antenna. Uh that's typically mattered on the roof and the cable runsdown into our when you chassis sinks or device. And so each GPS satellite hasan atomic clock on board. So the GPS satellite system is a great source ofaccurate danda free time in that regard. So the sink server itself synchronizesit's time to the satellites. The internal clock. Super accurate to a fewbillions of a second, you know, like nanoseconds. Okay, so you might begoing okay, So now you have this super accurate clock, would you use it for?Well, it's known as a stratum one time server connected to a network and itjust sits there patiently waiting if you will because the time servercommunicates in something called the...

...network time protocol. NTP for short.NTP has been around for decades. Very common in operating systems and routersand servers, you know, your smartphone even uses NTP. So an I. T. Admin, he'sgonna configure all those clients on his network to get their time from uhfrom this time server. And as a result of servers, routers and workstationsare all going to have a correct synchronized time across the network.So this has nothing to do with the uh, with low keys time variant authority.Right. That would be correct. And nothing to do with that. So, well, youknow, I read a little bit about log file time stamps. So we share what theyare and and and I guess why they're important. Yeah. So that question isprobably going to immediately connect with a lot of your audience just tobegin with. So, and it really does get to the heart of the matter. I'm goingto take a step back here first just for humanity for a moment. And let's lookat the enterprise time of day landscape. Right. Where's time get used? And uh,so for the most part it gets used for network and business operations. Itplays a role in network security and and the fact that humans like timestamps that are accurate and real and and also databases and legal regulatoryand all those sorts of things. But you know the biggest area that always comesup is is log files. And the reason for that is that server's record everythingthey do in log files who logged in. When did they log in? What did they doany time a server response to a request of some sort. It creates a log entry.And these these logs are typically aggregated by some sort of securityinformation and event management system of some sort. And these log systems canaggregate millions of entries of logs as they are continually updated basedon network activities. So I ask, okay...

...so who cares? Well if uh there's anysort of network problem a false security breach on the network the I. T.Admin is going to turn to his log reporting system for answers. That'sthat's the only place he can really go because that's where it all is a recordof everything that's happened. And it's really important that all these logsget accurately time stamped so that you know, are it I can quickly get acorrect view of what happened when and where and so forth. Because as any itlike I can tell you because they only do this once. Right? They all have thesame experience and that is if they're not properly time stamps then the logsaren't going to make sense and the events aren't going to be in order. Andso if you're that I. T. Guy you want to make sense of those network logs andfind that fault as fast as can because usually there's a lot of pressure onyou to solve that problem. So any I. T. Guy, they're going to tell you mostlikely the most important reason to install a time server on the network isgoing to be log file accuracy. It's a very common reason. Right. Right. Welland you know and that's what I mentioned at the beginning is you knowthose network administrators, they have to be able to trust that that clock isaccurate and secure and reliable. So what kind of issues can you have withthe accuracy of network time servers? And I guess what businesses orindustries absolutely rely on Uber uber accuracy. So a two part question. Goodone. Let's start with a fun part of it. And that is who cares right. Orindustries rely on it. Right? And you get them all over the map, you get themfrom Peyton companies to medical centers to all kinds of organizationsthat need accurate timestamps. But your to your question of which ones needUber accurate. The one that comes to mind are going to be uh ones like stocktrading okay they get held to a high...

...standard for the purpose of audits andalso in some high frequency trading strategies. Time matters. It's supersuper accurate time down to Sub nanosecond to maybe around 100 millionsof a second is commonplace. But you know you'd really be surprised wherethese things wind up. Obviously banks and fortune 5000 companies uh by and wesell them the big and small organizations alike but there's acouple. I like to just kind of point out just out of curiosity really. Oneof them is casinos, casinos. They buy a lot of time servers because they have alot of slot machines and they have above all a lot of cameras and theyneed accurate time on those cameras so it places what they record properly intime. The other. Probably one of my favorite goes back a ways when I wastalking to an I. T. Guy who worked at a company that built milk cartons, I'masking him you know the time stamp on my milk carton is like to the day okayAnd I go whiting accurate time. And his response was do you know how manyservers are around here that have to keep up going to keep those littlepopulation going. So it's astounding any right to your other question. I maybe going along here but this is another one that probably most of your audienceis going to be able to connect with. And that is the question regardingtrust regarding accurate, secure, reliable time. And so a lot oforganizations adventure to say at some point, Most if not all of them decidedto get what I call free time from the internet and um you know, I say why not?You know, it's an I. P. Address, you send a request, retirement respondswith a time stamp. But and it didn't cost anything. But there's some realfundamental problems with that. And the biggest one is of course is it's notyour clock. Right? So there's a lot of downsides when you go to get free timefrom the internet, they relate to security. You know, your firewalls open,you don't have any control over it. You can't authenticate to it. There's noassurance at times correct. And you know, it's not going to send an S and M.P. Trap. If something goes wrong,...

...you're just trusting it's perfect. Andso, you know, the the upside of having a sync server, network time serverinside your firewall, is that you mitigate all those right? You don'thave to open your firewall, It is your clock, it is accurate. It's going totell you if something is unreliable about the time and it just reallyimproves your operational integrity of timing across the network. And and thenice thing is that, you know, they're not that expensive. So. Right. Yeah. Sowhat about security? I mean what's vulnerable in network timesynchronization. That's a good question because security is on everybody'sminds these days. The time itself is not considered a secret really. I mean,we can all look at our watch. Me pretty much have a pretty good idea at thetime. And so not a lot of effort goes into what you might call secure time.You get a lot of focus on the security of the device itself, of the syncserver because it's connected to the network. Right. And as soon as youconnect something of the corporate network, it gets a lot of scrutiny. Soover the years we've really hard and the sync server, it's probably the mostsecurity hardened time server that's available. But to your questionspecifically, you know, there is an emerging threat, a security threat totime synchronization. And that's because most time servers that arestratum one, they're getting their time from the GPS signals and the gPSsatellite signals are increasingly coming under gps jamming and spoofingattacks, which is kind of interesting really. I mean, certainly to me and I'msure some of your audience and that is jamming is basically the loss of theGps satellite signal either due to accidental or deliberate interference.And it's kind of like unplugging the GPS receiver and the GPS receiver iswhat you're getting your accurate time from the satellites with the other isgps spoofing. And in this case it's always deliberate and it is always withnefarious intent and and what spoofing...

...is is essentially fooling the gpsreceiver into thinking it has the correct time when in fact it doesn'tokay causes all kinds of problems. You know, go back remember log files, right?So just to to your point in terms of security from a microchip standpoint,gps jamming and spoofing is increasingly a concern. We have atechnology called Blue Sky technology that detects both jamming and spoofingand can protect the GPS receiver and the time from it to essentially assureyou have accurate and reliable time if in fact that security threat becomespresent, you know, in your environment so well, so finally let's talk aboutreliability. So what is microchips solution to reliability and what doesthat mean for a time server? Yeah. You know I always kind of have to smile atthis one because you know you bring up reliability and you know you alwaysthink oh it's electronics, you know, I hope the power supply works right or orthe fan games working or something. It's like the most boring question ever,you think, but the truth is articulated in two ways and one is timingreliability right? I mean here's a clock and you have an expectation thatif you're the I. T. Guy, your systems when they asked for a time stamp,they're going to get it and that's really important. That's that's the key.The idea behind the time servers to deliver an accurate reliable timestamping requested. And so it kind of gets the one thing that's actually youwouldn't think about it. But it's a real interesting characteristic of atime server and that is for some organizations. If say GPS is notavailable you basically go into something called hold over the clockjust kind of continues on its own if you will. And some organizations wantedto be super super accurate in that environment. And so they put in anatomic clock we actually build and manufacture atomic clocks their smallabout the size of the mints package of...

...mints in your hand, palm of your hand.And it's these atomic clocks are installing a time server so that if forexample like your stock trading company and you have to have really accuratetime throughout the trading day and you lost Gps right at the opening of themorning bell about atomic clock will keep you accurate for days and days.And the big advantage of it is that it buys that I. T. Guy time to go fix theproblem clock stay super accurate. I. T. Guy has time to not panic and and andresolve the problem. So timing reliability is one. The other productreliability you know the obvious thing is that they wanted to keep working inthat break. Right. And so just in short microchip sink servers have greaterthan 30 year you know mean time between failure which is really fantastic but Ijust wanted to share one thing here but the last thing here it comes up andthis is what customers tell us. And it's, it's, they say, I want your syncserver to be easy to purchase, easy to install and I want to forget I own itright. And that's where this partnership with ingram, micro andmicro chip I think is a real win because it perfectly fits in as muchthat ingram makes it very easy to purchase the sync server. It's easy toinstall. And I frequently have customers tell me saying, hey, weforgot what you and your product. It just does his job in the background.It's literally set it and forget it. That's absolutely right. So well. So aswe start to wrap up this episode, we ask everybody here the same questionand that's where do you see technology going in the next year? Yeah, goodquestion of course. You know, I'm going to answer it in the context of thetheme of what we've been talking about security and accuracy. You know,because I talked to the most important attributes. So security, the quest formore and more security is relentless. Okay. CVS common vulnerabilities andexposures, they are increasing on networks and operating systems,customer requirements, particularly from our largest customers, bigorganizations, it's just continuous to...

...that end. I see microchip. Justcontinuing to harden the sync server to connect to corporate networks and bevery, very secure. The other one in the area of time accuracy and this actuallycomes full circle on this conversation really. And that is as networks andservers get faster and faster. It actually improves the time accuracy onthe network. But the problem is they get faster and faster. There's a reasonand there's going to be more transactions between servers andclients and more log file entries. And so the challenge that lies ahead andwhere we see the technology going is continuing to provide better and bettertime accuracy and granularity so that that I. T. Guy his log file timestampsall have the precision and they're ordered properly. You don't get logfile timestamps with the same time stamp. So accuracy is just gonna bewith us as networks get faster and servers get busier and busier.Excellent. Well so for our listeners who uh want to find out more about whatwe talked about today, how can they find out and reach out? Well I suggestthey talked to uh Ricky need him at the ingram Micro I think his email addressI think is richard dot need a mat ingram micro dot com. And uh he canpoint you in the right direction and get you the information you need on,you know, installing a sync server on your network. Fantastic. Well thank youso much for for all of your insight and uh a little bit of a history lesson orI guess an insight into uh something you probably don't think about a lotbut something that is very very vital. So paul, thank you so much for yourtime. Yes, and thank you. I enjoyed the conversation and thank you listenersfor tuning in and subscribing to be, to be a tech talk with ingram Micro. Ifyou liked this episode or have a question, please join the discussion ontwitter with the Hashtag B two B tech talk. Until next time I'm Shelby scarehawk. You've been listening to B. B Tech talk with ingram Micro. Thisepisode was sponsored by ingram Micro...

Security B two B Tech Talk is a jointproduction by Sweet Fish Media and ingram Micro, ingram micro productionhandled by Laura Burton and Christine fan. To not miss an episode. Subscribetoday in your favorite podcast platform.

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