September 6, 2023

PTP in the Cloud: Transforming Time Synchronization for Broadcasting and Beyond

An image of several white clocks with black hands and numbers in a grid.
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Picture this: a live broadcast of the World Cup final is being transmitted across the globe. The video stream originates from South Africa, graphics are being layered in New York, and a voiceover is being recorded in Tokyo. All these elements need to be perfectly synchronized to ensure a seamless viewing experience. This is where Precision Time Protocol (PTP) comes into play, providing seamless synchronization for these complicated, time-sensitive operations with lots of moving parts.

How PTP Works in Computer Networks

PTP, for the uninitiated, is a protocol used to synchronize clocks throughout a computer network. It works by having a source clock, often referred to as the grandmaster, that is typically linked to a GPS signal. This connection to GPS provides highly accurate time references, down to the sub-microsecond level. This grandmaster clock distributes these time references across its network using switches and routers.

PTP is crucial for the media, entertainment, and finance sectors, as it supports network backup and redundancy standards. Several regulatory regimes, such as SMPTE 2110 for media and entertainment and FINRA regulations along with the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) for finance, mandate clock-synchronization based on PTP. Beyond these, other sectors like industrials, government, and service providers routinely rely on PTP for production systems.

The Role of Boundary Clocks and Transparent Clocks in PTP

In larger networks or over long distances, PTP uses boundary clocks and transparent clocks to maintain synchronization. Boundary clocks correct for time discrepancies, known as “clock drift,” between the grandmaster clock and themselves, providing an accurate time source to the end systems. Transparent clocks, on the other hand, simply pass PTP messages through them, maintaining the integrity of the time information.

The Challenges of PTP in Cloud Migration

As industries that rely on precise time synchronization migrate operations to the cloud, however, they’re hitting a snafu: most cloud providers don’t support multicast, a crucial component of PTP. Without PTP, these industries may face difficulties in extending their on-premises networks into the cloud, potentially slowing down plans to scale wider or enable remote work via the cloud or hybrid cloud setups.

Bridging the Gap: PTP and Cloud Migration

Solutions like’s cloudSwXtch tool, however, are designed to bridge the gap between traditional on-premises systems and the cloud and are coming into the picture. The tool integrates Timebeat’s PTP Squared technology, enabling systems that rely on multicast - and by extension, PTP - to achieve the high level of synchronization required to move to the cloud.

But an additional challenge with PTP lies in the fact that the further independent workloads move from the grandmaster clock’s time references , the greater the possible synchronization error. cloudSwXtch goes beyond just bridging PTP to the cloud, it also provides a solution to the synchronization problems for cloud workloads. By implementing two methods - straight PTP distribution and Timebeat PTP– the tool ensures that VMs or microservices in the cloud can synchronize accurately.

In other words, it allows for synchronization across different endpoints, regardless of how synchronized they are. This means that whether you're broadcasting a live event, executing high-frequency trades, or managing IoT devices, you can ensure precise time synchronization across all your systems, even in a cloud environment.

The Impact of PTP on Operational Efficiency and User Experience

The result is a seamless user experience, improved operational efficiency, and the ability to fully leverage the benefits of cloud technology. CFOs looking to build scalable cloud infrastructure, CTOs and CIOs seeking a broader range of products to deploy their systems, engineers and solutions architects creating solutions, and product teams developing new tools can all benefit from PTP in the cloud.

In industries where every microsecond counts, cloudSwXtch helps businesses continue to rely on PTP as they make the move to the cloud.  See you up there.

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