Cristian’s Algorithm

Cristian’s Algorithm is a clock synchronization algorithm is used to synchronize time with a time server by client processes. This algorithm works well with low-latency networks where Round Trip Time is short as compared to accuracy while redundancy prone distributed systems/applications do not go hand in hand with this algorithm. Here Round Trip Time refers to the time duration between start of a Request and end of corresponding Response.

Below is an illustration imitating working of cristian’s algorithm:
Cristian's agorithm illustration


1) The process on the client machine sends the request for fetching clock time(time at server) to the Clock Server at time T_0.

2) The Clock Server listens to the request made by the client process and returns the response in form of clock server time.

3) The client process fetches the response from the Clock Server at time T_1 and calculates the synchronised client clock time using the formula given below.

     [ T_{CLIENT} = T_{SERVER} + (T_1 - T_0)/2 ]

where T_{CLIENT} refers to the synchronised clock time,
T_{SERVER} refers to the clock time returned by the server,
T_0 refers to the time at which request was sent by the client process,
T_1 refers to the time at which response was received by the client process

Working/Reliability of above formula:

T_1 - T_0 refers to the combined time taken by the network and the server to transfer request to the server, process the request and returning the response back to the client process, assuming that the network latency T_0 and T_1 are approximately equal.

The time at client side differs from actual time by at most (T_1 - T_0)/2 seconds. Using above statement we can draw a conclusion that the error in synchronisation can be at most (T_1 - T_0)/2 seconds.

     [ error, epsilon, [-(T_1 - T_0)/2, , (T_1 - T_0)/2] ]

Python Codes below illustrate the working of Cristian’s algorithm:
Code below is used to initiate a prototype of a clock server on local machine:

# Python3 program imitating a clock server
import socket
import datetime
# function used to initiate the Clock Server
def initiateClockServer():
    s = socket.socket()
    print("Socket successfully created")
    # Server port
    port = 8000
    s.bind(('', port))
    # Start listening to requests
    print("Socket is listening...")
    # Clock Server Running forever
    while True
       # Establish connection with client
       connection, address = s.accept()      
       print('Server connected to', address)
       # Respond the client with server clock time
       # Close the connection with the client process 
# Driver function
if __name__ == '__main__':
    # Trigger the Clock Server    


Socket successfully created
Socket is listening...

Code below is used to initiate a prototype of a client process on local machine:

# Python3 program imitating a client process
import socket 
import datetime
from dateutil import parser
from timeit import default_timer as timer
# function used to Synchronize client process time
def synchronizeTime():
    s = socket.socket()          
    # Server port
    port = 8000     
    # connect to the clock server on local computer 
    s.connect(('', port)) 
    request_time = timer()
    # receive data from the server
    server_time = parser.parse(s.recv(1024).decode())
    response_time = timer() 
    actual_time = datetime.datetime.now()
    print("Time returned by server: " + str(server_time))
    process_delay_latency = response_time - request_time
    print("Process Delay latency: "
          + str(process_delay_latency)
          + " seconds")
    print("Actual clock time at client side: "
          + str(actual_time))
    # synchronize process client clock time
    client_time = server_time
                      + datetime.timedelta(seconds =
                               (process_delay_latency) / 2)
    print("Synchronized process client time: "
                                        + str(client_time))
    # calculate synchronization error 
    error = actual_time - client_time
    print("Synchronization error : " 
                 + str(error.total_seconds()) + " seconds")
# Driver function
if __name__ == '__main__':
    # synchronize time using clock server


Time returned by server: 2018-11-07 17:56:43.302379
Process Delay latency: 0.0005150819997652434 seconds
Actual clock time at client side: 2018-11-07 17:56:43.302756
Synchronized process client time: 2018-11-07 17:56:43.302637
Synchronization error : 0.000119 seconds

Improvision in Clock Synchronization:

Using iterative testing over the network, we can define a minimum transfer time using which we can formulate an improved synchronization clock time(less synchronization error).
Here, by defining a minimum transfer time, with a high confidence, we can say that the server time will
always be generated after T_0 + T_{min} and the T_{SERVER} will always be generated before T_1 - T_{min}, where T_{min} is the minimum transfer time which is the minimum value of T_{REQUEST} and T_{RESPONSE} during several iterative tests. Here synchronization error can be formulated as follows:

    [ error, epsilon, [-((T_1 - T_0)/2 - T_{min}), , ((T_1 - T_0)/2 - T_{min})] ]

Similarily, if T_{REQUEST} and T_{RESPONSE} differ by a considerable amount of time, we may substitute T_{min} by T_{min1} and T_{min2}, where T_{min1} is the minimum observed request time and T_{min2} refers to the minimum observed response time over the network.
The synchronized clock time in this case can be calculated as:

     [ T_{CLIENT} = T_{SERVER} + (T_1 - T_0)/2 + (T_{min2} - T_{min1})/2 ]

So, by just introducing response and request time as separate time latencies, we can improve synchronization of clock time and hence decrease the overall synchronization error. Number of iterative tests to be ran depends on the overall clock drift observed.

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristian%27s_algorithm
2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round-trip_delay_time
3) https://tutorialspoint.dev/slugresolver/socket-programming-python
4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_drift

This article is attributed to GeeksforGeeks.org

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