Time is running out for NTP

InfoWorld 28 Nov, 2016 by Fahmida Y. Rashid

Everyone benefits from Network Time Protocol, but the project struggles to pay its sole maintainer or fund its various initiatives. (NTP and other network time projects are all managed through Network Time Foundation (NTF), a 501c3 non-profit).

There are two types of open source projects: those with corporate sponsorship and those that fall under the “labor of love” category. Actually, there’s a third variety: projects that get some support but have to keep looking ahead for the next sponsor.

Some open source projects are so widely used that if anything goes wrong, everyone feels the ripple effects. OpenSSL is one such project; when the Heartbleed flaw was discovered in the open source cryptography library, organizations scrambled to identify and fix all their vulnerable networking devices and software. Network Time Protocol (NTP) arguably plays as critical a role in modern computing, if not more; the open source protocol is used to synchronize clocks on servers and devices to make sure they all have the same time. Yet, the fact remains that NTP is woefully underfunded and undersupported.

NTP is more than 30 years old—it may be the oldest codebase running on the internet. Despite some hiccups, it continues to work well. But the project’s future is uncertain because the number of volunteer contributors has shrunk, and there’s too much work for one person—principal maintainer Harlan Stenn—to handle. When there is limited support, the project has to pick and choose what tasks it can afford to complete, which slows down maintenance and stifles innovation.

“NTF’s NTP project remains severely underfunded,” the project team wrote in a recent security advisory. “Google was unable to sponsor us this year, and currently, the Linux Foundation’s Core Internet Initiative only supports Harlan for about 25 percent of his hours per week and is restricted to NTP development only.”

(Please read the rest of the article here: http://www.infoworld.com/article/3144546/security/time-is-running-out-for-ntp.html)

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