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I thought my watch had stopped. Or was running wild. It was happening again.  Just a few months after I cracked the case of the slipped time reference site in the case I called "Pssst, ABAP Detective, you got a second?", I found systems with differing times. My first clue was a message saying there were 7 seconds missing from a job. This time (no pun intended), the fault wasn't directly seen in an SAP system.  I started digging further.

In the last time drift episode, I found clues inside of SAP job logs that led me to review what sources of time synchronization were defined.  I couldn't just ask the railroad conductor where he got his timetable from before he blew the train whistle, I needed to discover it for myself. The first pattern was Windows systems having one time, yet UNIX systems having another.  When I first checked, it was seven seconds; when I looked later, it was up to 10 seconds and climbing.  Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but if some timestamp got whacky the shippers could lose packages, or something.

Here were the lessons from the last drift:

  • Don't use just 2 reference sites. Use 3.
  • Use the NTP pools as reference.
  • Make sure your reference sites exist.

I could sense these didn't solve everything. To keep this tale short (and maybe sweet), I found out the Windows systems get their time from Active Directory domain controllers.  That's fine, if those controllers are straight.  If they're crooked, well, the whole continent was drifting out to sea with them, climate change or not.  My first new clue was to use a little-known Window utility, since "ntpdate" isn't part of the standard OS.

Rap sheet on remote reference system

$ w32tm /stripchart /  /samples:5 /dataonly

Tracking [].

Collecting 5 samples.

The current time is 11/13/2012 4:50:01 PM (local time).

16:50:01, -10.5314154s

16:50:03, -10.5518846s

16:50:05, -10.5496261s

16:50:07, -10.5502981s

16:50:09, -10.5501962s

Rap sheet on domain controller

$ w32tm /stripchart /computer:domcol /samples:5 /dataonly

Tracking domcol [].

Collecting 5 samples.

The current time is 11/13/2012 4:47:48 PM (local time).

16:47:48, -00.7965628s

16:47:50, -00.7883558s

16:47:52, -00.7879628s

16:47:54, -00.7953808s

16:47:56, -00.7793569s

  • MS information on w32tm.  "A tool used to diagnose problems occurring with Windows Time"

To make sure my head was on straight, my pocket watch was intact, and I wasn't looking at things in a mirror, I also found a distribution of NTP client for Windows, which included the same "ntpdate" command I had used to run down the culprits in the last chase.

C:\Program Files\NTP\bin>.\ntpdate.exe  -d

15 Nov 02:40:24 ntpdate.exe[8040]: ntpdate 4.2.6p5@1.2349-o Jul 30 11:53:32 (UTC

+02:00) 2012  (1)

15 Nov 02:40:24 ntpdate.exe[8040]: Raised to realtime priority class








server, port 123

stratum 2, precision -21, leap 00, trust 000

refid [], delay 0.10367, dispersion 0.00319

transmitted 4, in filter 4

reference time:    d44ed3b3.36942e53  Thu, Nov 15 2012  2:36:35.213

originate timestamp: d44ed493.c8d76175  Thu, Nov 15 2012  2:40:19.784

transmit timestamp:  d44ed49f.329708c5  Thu, Nov 15 2012  2:40:31.197

filter delay:  0.15057  0.11934  0.10367  0.11923

         0.00000  0.00000  0.00000  0.00000

filter offset: -11.4821 -11.4584 -11.4598 -11.4600

         0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000

delay 0.10367, dispersion 0.00319

offset -11.459886

Pretty much the same result, though now, a day or so later, the delta is over 11 seconds.  I'm sure some of you are saying what difference does a few seconds make?  In my world, a lot.  It's not keeping me awake at night, but it's my mission to set the servers straight.  And if their controllers are crooked, well, we can vote them out of office, or we can take them downtown.


Crude purple crayon drawings

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

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