IEEE 1588 stack

Synchronizing time between multiple computers in the network has always been a challenge. What seems to be a trivial requirement to equip two or more computers with the identical time is, on closer inspection, a very complex problem.

To solve this problem, the NTP protocol was already developed by David L. Mills at the University of Delaware in 1985 and published as RFC 958. With this protocol, it was then possible to assign the time of a time server to several computers. The accuracy within the range of microseconds (1x10-6 sec.) was achieved and was sufficient at that time.

In the early 1990, the T&M market recognized the need to have significantly more precise systems. In 2002, the IEEE 1588-2002 was completed and released. With the help of this standard, accuracies in the sub-microsecond range should now become possible. In 2008, the standard was once again adapted to the current requirements and defined as IEEE 1588-2008.

However, it became obvious that the necessary accuracy can only be realized with the help of additional hardware at the network interface. Only global players were able to carry out these cost-intensive proprietary developments. In 2012, Intel presented its network chips of the Intel series I21x, which for the first time contained support for IEEE 1588. With the presentation of these network chips, the time had now come to think about commercial solutions in the T&M environment. With this consumer chip set, Intel had for the first time created the possibility to use the IEEE 1588 for a wide range of devices. These network chips contain all time-critical parts of the IEEE 1588 standard:

  • Hardware clock: An internal counter and the necessary actuators for the adjustments of the counter (frequency adjustment)
  • Hardware Timestamping: The timestamping of the sending UDP PTP data packets
  • Hardware Timestamping Grabber: Capture the timestamps when receiving UDP PTP data packets
  • Hardware Based Time Events: Generating timed triggers

TSEP has been working with the IEEE 1588 protocol since 2005 and has already done several implementations of this standard. At the beginning of 2016, TSEP decided to implement its own IEEE 1588 stack and create the necessary drivers for Windows. In collaboration with the LXI Consortium, this development has been pushed forward. Since February 2017 TSEP has completed its development and the IEEE 15888 Stack is now in the test and certification phase. In June 2017, TSEP plans the LXI certification of the IEEE 1588 stack at the LXI Plug fest in Denver. This implementation of the IEEE 1588 Stack has been integrated into the LXI Reference Design and will be available free of charge for all LXI members. In parallel, TSEP provides for all non-LXI members the IEEE 1588 Stack as a product. As a licensing model TSEP plans a "license per device" and a "company license" model. In addition, customers can purchase an adaptation of the stack for their devices.

Now is the time to use IEEE 1588 in your products. Let us advise you about the possibilities of IEEE 1588 in your product portfolio. We're here to help.


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