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The NTPv3 RFC describes five operating modes:

Symmetric Active (1): A host operating in this mode sends periodic messages regardless of the reachability state or stratum of its peer. By operating in this mode the host announces its willingness to synchronize and be synchronized by the peer.

Symmetric Passive (2): This type of association is ordinarily created upon arrival of a message from a peer operating in the symmetric active mode and persists only as long as the peer is reachable and operating at a stratum level less than or equal to the host; otherwise, the association is dissolved. However, the association will always persist until at least one message has been sent in reply. By operating in this mode the host announces its willingness to synchronize and be synchronized by the peer.

Client (3): A host operating in this mode sends periodic messages regardless of the reachability state or stratum of its peer. By operating in this mode the host, usually a LAN workstation, announces its willingness to be synchronized by, but not to synchronize the peer.

Server (4): This type of association is ordinarily created upon arrival of a client request message and exists only in order to reply to that request, after which the association is dissolved. By operating in this mode the host, usually a LAN time server, announces its willingness to synchronize, but not to be synchronized by the peer.

Broadcast (5): A host operating in this mode sends periodic messages regardless of the reachability state or stratum of the peers. By operating in this mode the host, usually a LAN time server operating on a high-speed broadcast medium, announces its willingness to synchronize all of the peers, but not to be synchronized by any of them.

It seems to me, though, that any host except a leaf node would probably be in several modes. For example, I might have a local area network with three NTP servers, each in Symmetric Active (1) mode with respect to one another. They would also each be clients (3) of one of the many public stratum two time servers. Lastly, they would all server as servers (4) to the many local clients.

Is the point that they're only in a given mode for a moment during the synchronization? If so, how does a host know to switch? I'm only looking for enough depth here to discuss the issue in an educated manner, not to write a custom time server.

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1 Answer 1

Operating mode does not describe how the daemon functions in general, rather it is a description of an association (normally an association between two computers). Check the aragraph right before the modes you listed:

Except in broadcast mode, an NTP association is formed when two peers exchange messages and one or both of them create and maintain an instantiation of the protocol machine, called an association. The association can operate in one of five modes

For information about association modes in ntpv4 see:

http://www.eecis.udel.edu/%7Emills/ntp/html/assoc.html

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