Timing and synchronization have been fundamental components of telecommunication networks for years. Protocols such as SONET and SDH require precise synchronization of all nodes in the network in order to function properly. Ethernet, historically, has not had the need for precise timing because it was built, and predominantly used for non real-time data. 


But with the advent of Ethernet cellular backhaul networks, the IEEE* has developed a new precision time protocol (PTP) known as IEEE*1588 V2, to add timing to Ethernet for synchronizing events such as cell tower voice or data handoffs. Now data centers are getting into the timing act.


Why do data centers care about precision timing? One class of data center customer is the financial services industry. In financial trading, to use an old phrase, timing is everything. This industry requires that the exact time of trading events can be accurately recorded anywhere in the network down to the microsecond level. But other needs are also arising for precision time measurements in the data center.


As I posted in a recent blog, latency is important for applications such as server clustering and certain web services. To guarantee performance for these applications, network administrators can use the new PTP timing protocol to monitor round-trip delays between servers and diagnose network performance problems. This can also help identify points of network congestion and even be used by network management software to rebalance the network load automatically.


To service these needs, Arista* just announced it has built a new switch that uses TimeKeeper* software from FSMLabs* to provide PTP solutions to its data center customers. Arista uses our low-latency Intel® Ethernet switch silicon in combination with TimeKeeper to provide the ultimate networking solutions in these emerging datacenter markets.


The Arista solution points the way to a data center Ethernet future where low latency and precision timing are combined to help manage application performance.