Chapter 28. Chrony with HW timestamping

Hardware timestamping is a feature supported in some Network Interface Controller (NICs) which provides accurate timestamping of incoming and outgoing packets. NTP timestamps are usually created by the kernel and chronyd with the use of the system clock. However, when HW timestamping is enabled, the NIC uses its own clock to generate the timestamps when packets are entering or leaving the link layer or the physical layer. When used with NTP, hardware timestamping can significantly improve the accuracy of synchronization. For best accuracy, both NTP servers and NTP clients need to use hardware timestamping. Under ideal conditions, a sub-microsecond accuracy may be possible.

Another protocol for time synchronization that uses hardware timestamping is PTP.

Unlike NTP, PTP relies on assistance in network switches and routers. If you want to reach the best accuracy of synchronization, use PTP on networks that have switches and routers with PTP support, and prefer NTP on networks that do not have such switches and routers.

The following sections describe how to:

  • Verify support for hardware timestamping
  • Enable hardware timestamping
  • Configure client polling interval
  • Enable interleaved mode
  • Configure server for large number of clients
  • Verify hardware timestamping
  • Configure PTP-NTP bridge

28.1. Verifying support for hardware timestamping

To verify that hardware timestamping with NTP is supported by an interface, use the ethtool -T command. An interface can be used for hardware timestamping with NTP if ethtool lists the SOF_TIMESTAMPING_TX_HARDWARE and SOF_TIMESTAMPING_TX_SOFTWARE capabilities and also the HWTSTAMP_FILTER_ALL filter mode.

Example 28.1. Verifying support for hardware timestamping on a specific interface

# ethtool -T eth0


Timestamping parameters for eth0:
        hardware-transmit     (SOF_TIMESTAMPING_TX_HARDWARE)
        software-transmit     (SOF_TIMESTAMPING_TX_SOFTWARE)
        hardware-receive      (SOF_TIMESTAMPING_RX_HARDWARE)
        software-receive      (SOF_TIMESTAMPING_RX_SOFTWARE)
        software-system-clock (SOF_TIMESTAMPING_SOFTWARE)
        hardware-raw-clock    (SOF_TIMESTAMPING_RAW_HARDWARE)
PTP Hardware Clock: 0
Hardware Transmit Timestamp Modes:
        off                   (HWTSTAMP_TX_OFF)
        on                    (HWTSTAMP_TX_ON)
Hardware Receive Filter Modes:
        none                  (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_NONE)
        all                   (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_ALL)
        ptpv1-l4-sync         (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V1_L4_SYNC)
        ptpv1-l4-delay-req    (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V1_L4_DELAY_REQ)
        ptpv2-l4-sync         (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V2_L4_SYNC)
        ptpv2-l4-delay-req    (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V2_L4_DELAY_REQ)
        ptpv2-l2-sync         (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V2_L2_SYNC)
        ptpv2-l2-delay-req    (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V2_L2_DELAY_REQ)
        ptpv2-event           (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V2_EVENT)
        ptpv2-sync            (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V2_SYNC)
        ptpv2-delay-req       (HWTSTAMP_FILTER_PTP_V2_DELAY_REQ)

28.2. Enabling hardware timestamping

To enable hardware timestamping, use the hwtimestamp directive in the /etc/chrony.conf file. The directive can either specify a single interface, or a wildcard character can be used to enable hardware timestamping on all interfaces that support it. Use the wildcard specification in case that no other application, like ptp4l from the linuxptp package, is using hardware timestamping on an interface. Multiple hwtimestamp directives are allowed in the chrony configuration file.

Example 28.2. Enabling hardware timestamping by using the hwtimestamp directive

hwtimestamp eth0
hwtimestamp eth1
hwtimestamp *

28.3. Configuring client polling interval

The default range of a polling interval (64-1024 seconds) is recommended for servers on the Internet. For local servers and hardware timestamping, a shorter polling interval needs to be configured in order to minimize offset of the system clock.

The following directive in /etc/chrony.conf specifies a local NTP server using one second polling interval:

server ntp.local minpoll 0 maxpoll 0

28.4. Enabling interleaved mode

NTP servers that are not hardware NTP appliances, but rather general purpose computers running a software NTP implementation, like chrony, will get a hardware transmit timestamp only after sending a packet. This behavior prevents the server from saving the timestamp in the packet to which it corresponds. In order to enable NTP clients receiving transmit timestamps that were generated after the transmission, configure the clients to use the NTP interleaved mode by adding the xleave option to the server directive in /etc/chrony.conf:

server ntp.local minpoll 0 maxpoll 0 xleave

28.5. Configuring server for large number of clients

The default server configuration allows a few thousands of clients at most to use the interleaved mode concurrently. To configure the server for a larger number of clients, increase the clientloglimit directive in /etc/chrony.conf. This directive specifies the maximum size of memory allocated for logging of clients' access on the server:

clientloglimit 100000000

28.6. Verifying hardware timestamping

To verify that the interface has successfully enabled hardware timestamping, check the system log. The log should contain a message from chronyd for each interface with successfully enabled hardware timestamping.

Example 28.3. Log messages for interfaces with enabled hardware timestamping

chronyd[4081]: Enabled HW timestamping on eth0
chronyd[4081]: Enabled HW timestamping on eth1

When chronyd is configured as an NTP client or peer, you can have the transmit and receive timestamping modes and the interleaved mode reported for each NTP source by the chronyc ntpdata command:

Example 28.4. Reporting the transmit, receive timestamping and interleaved mode for each NTP source

# chronyc ntpdata


Remote address  : (CB00710F)
Remote port     : 123
Local address   : (CB00714A)
Leap status     : Normal
Version         : 4
Mode            : Server
Stratum         : 1
Poll interval   : 0 (1 seconds)
Precision       : -24 (0.000000060 seconds)
Root delay      : 0.000015 seconds
Root dispersion : 0.000015 seconds
Reference ID    : 47505300 (GPS)
Reference time  : Wed May 03 13:47:45 2017
Offset          : -0.000000134 seconds
Peer delay      : 0.000005396 seconds
Peer dispersion : 0.000002329 seconds
Response time   : 0.000152073 seconds
Jitter asymmetry: +0.00
NTP tests       : 111 111 1111
Interleaved     : Yes
Authenticated   : No
TX timestamping : Hardware
RX timestamping : Hardware
Total TX        : 27
Total RX        : 27
Total valid RX  : 27

Example 28.5. Reporting the stability of NTP measurements

# chronyc sourcestats

With hardware timestamping enabled, stability of NTP measurements should be in tens or hundreds of nanoseconds, under normal load. This stability is reported in the Std Dev column of the output of the chronyc sourcestats command:


210 Number of sources = 1
Name/IP Address            NP  NR  Span  Frequency  Freq Skew  Offset  Std Dev
ntp.local                  12   7    11     +0.000      0.019     +0ns    49ns

28.7. Configuring PTP-NTP bridge

If a highly accurate Precision Time Protocol (PTP) primary timeserver is available in a network that does not have switches or routers with PTP support, a computer may be dedicated to operate as a PTP client and a stratum-1 NTP server. Such a computer needs to have two or more network interfaces, and be close to the primary timeserver or have a direct connection to it. This will ensure highly accurate synchronization in the network.

Configure the ptp4l and phc2sys programs from the linuxptp packages to use one interface to synchronize the system clock using PTP.

Configure chronyd to provide the system time using the other interface:

Example 28.6. Configuring chronyd to provide the system time using the other interface

hwtimestamp eth1
local stratum 1