If you are operating a public available NTP server, for example when you’re going to join the NTP Pool Project, you probably want to test whether your server is working correctly. Either with a one-off measurement from hundreds of clients or continuously to keep track of its performance. You can use the RIPE Atlas measurement platform (Wikipedia) for both use cases. Here’s how:
Wherever you’re running an NTP server: It is really interesting to see how many clients are using it. Either at home, in your company or worldwide at the NTP Pool Project. The problem is that ntp itself does not give you this answer of how many clients it serves. There are the “monstats” and “mrulist” queries but they are not reliable at all since they are not made for this. Hence I had to take another path in order to count NTP clients for my stratum 1 NTP servers. Let’s dig in:
As you hopefully already know, you should use at least three different NTP servers to get your time. However, there might be situations in which you can configure only one single NTP server, either via static IP addresses or via an FQDN. To overcome this single point of failure you can use an external load balancing server such as F5 LTM (in HA of course) to forward your NTP queries to one of many NTP servers. Here are some hints:
Since almost two years I am running a RIPE Atlas Probe in my server room. It resides in an own security zone on a Palo Alto firewall (which also powers the probe via its USB port :)). With this post I publish a few traffic statistics about the RIPE Atlas Probe.