NTP is a TCP/IP protocol for synchronizing time over a network. Basically a client requests the current time from a server, and uses it to set its own clock.
Behind this simple description, there is a lot of complexity - there are tiers of NTP servers, with the tier one NTP servers connected to atomic clocks, and tier two and three servers spreading the load of actually handling requests across the Internet. Also the client software is a lot more complex than you might think - it has to factor out communication delays, and adjust the time in a way that does not upset all the other processes that run on the server. But luckily all that complexity is hidden from you!
Ubuntu by default uses timedatectl / timesyncd to synchronize time and users can optionally use chrony to Serve the Network Time Protocol.
Synchronizing your systems time
Since Ubuntu 16.04 timedatectl / timesyncd (which are part of systemd) replace most of ntpdate / ntp.
timesyncd is available by default and replaces not only ntpdate, but also the client portion of chrony (or formerly ntpd). So on top of the one-shot action that ntpdate provided on boot and network activation, now timesyncd by default regularly checks and keeps your local time in sync. It also stores time updates locally, so that after reboots monotonically advances if applicable.
If chrony is installed timedatectl steps back to let chrony do the time keeping. That shall ensure that no two time syncing services are fighting. While no more recommended to be used, this still also applies to ntpd being installed to retain any kind of old behavior/config that you had through an upgrade. But it also implies that on an upgrade from a former release ntp/ntpdate might still be installed and therefore renders the new systemd based services disabled.
ntpdate is considered deprecated in favor of timedatectl (or chrony) and thereby no more installed by default. timesyncd will generally do the right thing keeping your time in sync, and chrony will help with more complex cases. But if you had one of a few known special ntpdate use cases, consider the following:
If you require a one-shot sync use: chronyd -q
If you require a one-shot time check, without setting the time use: chronyd -Q
Configuring timedatectl and timesyncd
The current status of time and time configuration via timedatectl and timesyncd can be checked with timedatectl status.
$ timedatectl status Local time: Fr 2018-02-23 08:47:13 UTC Universal time: Fr 2018-02-23 08:47:13 UTC RTC time: Fr 2018-02-23 08:47:13 Time zone: Etc/UTC (UTC, +0000) System clock synchronized: yes systemd-timesyncd.service active: yes RTC in local TZ: no If chrony is running it will automatically switch to: [...] systemd-timesyncd.service active: no
Via timedatectl an admin can control the timezone, how the system clock should relate to the hwclock and if permanent synronization should be enabled or not. See man timedatectl for more details.
timesyncd itself is still a normal service, so you can check its status also more in detail via.
$ systemctl status systemd-timesyncd systemd-timesyncd.service - Network Time Synchronization Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/systemd-timesyncd.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Fri 2018-02-23 08:55:46 UTC; 10s ago Docs: man:systemd-timesyncd.service(8) Main PID: 3744 (systemd-timesyn) Status: "Synchronized to time server 22.214.171.124:123 (ntp.ubuntu.com)." Tasks: 2 (limit: 4915) CGroup: /system.slice/systemd-timesyncd.service |-3744 /lib/systemd/systemd-timesyncd Feb 23 08:55:46 bionic-test systemd: Starting Network Time Synchronization... Feb 23 08:55:46 bionic-test systemd: Started Network Time Synchronization. Feb 23 08:55:46 bionic-test systemd-timesyncd: Synchronized to time server 126.96.36.199:123 (ntp.ubuntu.com).
The nameserver to fetch time for timedatectl and timesyncd from can be specified in /etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf and additional config files can be stored in /etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf.d/. The entries for NTP= and FallbackNTP= are space separated lists. See man timesyncd.conf for more.
Serve the Network Time Protocol
If in addition to synchronizing your system you also want to serve NTP information you need an NTP server. There are several options with chrony, ntpd and open-ntp. The recommended solution is chrony.
The NTP daemon chronyd calculates the drift and offset of your system clock and continuously adjusts it, so there are no large corrections that could lead to inconsistent logs for instance. The cost is a little processing power and memory, but for a modern server this is usually negligible.
To install chrony, from a terminal prompt enter:
sudo apt install chrony
This will provide two binaries:
chronyd - the actual daemon to sync and serve via the NTP protocol
chronyc - command-line interface for chrony daemon
Edit /etc/chrony/chrony.conf to add/remove server lines. By default these servers are configured:
# Use servers from the NTP Pool Project. Approved by Ubuntu Technical Board # on 2011-02-08 (LP: #104525). See http://www.pool.ntp.org/join.html for # more information. pool 0.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org iburst pool 1.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org iburst pool 2.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org iburst pool 3.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org iburst
See man chrony.conf for more details on the configuration options. After changing the any of the config file you have to restart chrony:
sudo systemctl restart chrony.service
Of the pool 2.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org as well as ntp.ubuntu.com also support ipv6 if needed. If one needs to force ipv6 there also is ipv6.ntp.ubuntu.com which is not configured by default.
Use chronyc to see query the status of the chrony daemon. For example to get an overview of the currently available and selected time sources.
chronyc sources MS Name/IP address Stratum Poll Reach LastRx Last sample =============================================================================== ^+ gamma.rueckgr.at 2 8 377 135 -1048us[-1048us] +/- 29ms ^- 2b.ncomputers.org 2 8 377 204 -1141us[-1124us] +/- 50ms ^+ www.kashra.com 2 8 377 139 +3483us[+3483us] +/- 18ms ^+ stratum2-4.NTP.TechFak.U> 2 8 377 143 -2090us[-2073us] +/- 19ms ^- zepto.mcl.gg 2 7 377 9 -774us[ -774us] +/- 29ms ^- mirrorhost.pw 2 7 377 78 -660us[ -660us] +/- 53ms ^- atto.mcl.gg 2 7 377 8 -823us[ -823us] +/- 50ms ^- static.188.8.131.52.cli> 2 8 377 9 -1503us[-1503us] +/- 45ms ^- 184.108.40.206 2 8 377 137 -11ms[ -11ms] +/- 117ms ^- 220.127.116.11 3 7 377 10 -3274us[-3274us] +/- 70ms ^- bagnikita.com 2 7 377 74 +3131us[+3131us] +/- 71ms ^- europa.ellipse.net 2 8 377 204 -790us[ -773us] +/- 97ms ^- tethys.hot-chilli.net 2 8 377 141 -797us[ -797us] +/- 59ms ^- 66-232-97-8.static.hvvc.> 2 7 377 206 +1669us[+1686us] +/- 133ms ^+ 18.104.22.168 1 8 377 205 +175us[ +192us] +/- 12ms ^* 46-243-26-34.tangos.nl 1 8 377 141 -123us[ -106us] +/- 10ms ^- pugot.canonical.com 2 8 377 21 -95us[ -95us] +/- 57ms ^- alphyn.canonical.com 2 6 377 23 -1569us[-1569us] +/- 79ms ^- golem.canonical.com 2 7 377 92 -1018us[-1018us] +/- 31ms ^- chilipepper.canonical.com 2 8 377 21 -1106us[-1106us] +/- 27ms chronyc sourcestats 210 Number of sources = 20 Name/IP Address NP NR Span Frequency Freq Skew Offset Std Dev ============================================================================== gamma.rueckgr.at 25 15 32m -0.007 0.142 -878us 106us 2b.ncomputers.org 26 16 35m -0.132 0.283 -1169us 256us www.kashra.com 25 15 32m -0.092 0.259 +3426us 195us stratum2-4.NTP.TechFak.U> 25 14 32m -0.018 0.130 -2056us 96us zepto.mcl.gg 13 11 21m +0.148 0.196 -683us 66us mirrorhost.pw 6 5 645 +0.117 0.445 -591us 19us atto.mcl.gg 21 13 25m -0.069 0.199 -904us 103us static.22.214.171.124.cli> 25 18 34m -0.005 0.094 -1526us 78us 126.96.36.199 25 10 32m +0.412 0.110 -11ms 84us 188.8.131.52 24 12 30m -0.983 0.173 -3718us 122us bagnikita.com 17 7 31m -0.132 0.217 +3527us 139us europa.ellipse.net 26 15 35m +0.038 0.553 -473us 424us tethys.hot-chilli.net 25 11 32m -0.094 0.110 -864us 88us 66-232-97-8.static.hvvc.> 20 11 35m -0.116 0.165 +1561us 109us 184.108.40.206 26 11 35m -0.054 0.390 +129us 343us 46-243-26-34.tangos.nl 25 16 32m +0.129 0.297 -307us 198us pugot.canonical.com 25 14 34m -0.271 0.176 -143us 135us alphyn.canonical.com 17 11 1100 -0.087 0.360 -1749us 114us golem.canonical.com 23 12 30m +0.057 0.370 -988us 229us chilipepper.canonical.com 25 18 34m -0.084 0.224 -1116us 169us
Certain chronyc commands are privileged and can not be run via the network without explicitly allowing them. See section Command and monitoring access in man chrony.conf for more details. A local admin can use sudo as usually as this will grant him access to the local admin socket /var/run/chrony/chronyd.sock.
Chrony supports various PPS types natively. It can use kernel PPS API as well as PTP hardware clock. Most general GPS receivers can be leveraged via GPSD. The latter (and potentially more) can be accessed via SHM or via a socket (recommended). All of the above can be used to augment chrony with additional high quality time sources for better accuracy, jitter, drift, longer-or-short term accuracy (Usually each kind of clock type is good at one of those, but non-perfect at the others). For more details on configuration see some of the external PPS/GPSD resource listed below.