Time as a Service (TaaS): Aruba and TOP-IX join forces to offer synchronisation services

By in InternetExchange

Increasingly stringent requirements related to transaction tracking in areas ranging from finance to betting and trading, or involving online gaming or even more specific cases for latency measurement in network infrastructures, demand extreme precision and accuracy in timing hardware. For most companies, running a synchronisation system in-house for the digital infrastructure is difficult both because of the possible high costs and the constant and necessary maintenance.

With this in mind Aruba, the main Italian cloud provider and leader in data centre services, web hosting, e-mail, PEC and domain registration, announced the availability of the Time as a Service (TaaS) synchronisation service at the Global Cloud Data Center of Ponte San Pietro (BG). The use of the service is possible thanks to a direct collaboration with TOP-IX (Turin Piedmont Internet eXchange) – the consortium established for the purpose of creating and managing an Internet Exchange (IX) for the exchange of Internet traffic in the North West area – which in turn cooperates with INRIM, the National Institute of Metrological Research and a primary member of the consortium.

Provision of the Time as a Service service

The fibre optic infrastructure of TOP-IX is directly connected to the Time and Frequency laboratories of INRIM and, thanks to the joint technological work with Aruba, has been extended to the Data Centre Campus of Ponte San Pietro. This makes it possible to provide the service in two different modes, related to the protocols used to distribute the time reference and to the users of the service itself: NTP TaaS and PTP TaaS.

NTP TaaS (Network Time Protocol) – The NTP protocol is the most commonly used protocol to synchronise computer and telecommunications systems over time. When the servers providing the NTP reference sources are reached via the Internet, they can be exposed to DDoS type attacks capable of inhibiting the synchronisation processes and rendering them inaccessible. Aruba and TOP-IX, through the network created, are able to avoid attacks since this infrastructure does not convey the signal on a public network but on a private network, carefully monitored and protected.

PTP TaaS (Precision Time Protocol) – In many areas, synchronisation requirements demand greater accuracy than that achieved by the NTP protocol. One example is ESMA’s MiFID II directive, which for online trading requires minimum requirements such as 100 us accuracy relative to UTC and 1 us granularity.

Although these levels of accuracy can also be achieved by GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System like GPS or Galileo) type sources, this mode has some limitations: radio signals can be jammed by external sources, in some cases the system is operated by entities outside the EU, and accuracy is subject to the will of the operator. Finally, regulations such as MiFID II require systems to be referenced against UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), derived from national atomic clocks.

The PTP TaaS service overcomes these limitations as it is provided by the public scientific research organisation INRIM via a fibre-optic infrastructure and not radio, made available by Aruba and TOP-IX.

The importance of the service

“From the financial services sector to that of online gaming, there are more and more companies for which Time as a Service represents an essential tool to meet compliance requirements and maintain a very high precision and reliability time synchronisation – commented Fabrizio Garrone, Enterprise Solution Director of Aruba – The TaaS, which we propose, represents a new element in the offer available to customers who choose the Data Center Campus of Ponte San Pietro to take advantage of a wide range of services ranging from colocation to the most advanced cloud, both when they are provided in managed mode, and when customers choose to manage them independently.”

“The TOP-IX Consortium has the TaaS service in its portfolio on its network between Turin and Milan: its uniqueness on the Italian market is given by the UTC reference made available by INRIM, the National Metrological Institute, a member of the Consortium, and by the propagation of the synchronisation signal over fibre optic infrastructure,” explains Andrea Casalegno, Technical Director of the TOP-IX Consortium. – The partnership with Aruba allows them to extend the service to their Data Centres in Ponte San Pietro, and thus to all their customers who need secure and reliable synchronisation services.”

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