HybridTime introduces a hybrid between physical and logical clocks that can be used to implement globally consistent database snapshots. HybridTime is one implementation of the general concept of Hybrid Logical Clocks that combine the logical clock semantics of Lamport and Vector clocks with a physical representation of time such as Spanner’s TrueTime. HybridTime follows similar update semantics as Lamport and Vector Clocks, where each node in the system updates their internal clock in response to events received. [Read More]


TrueTime is Google’s solution to providing to globally consistent timestamps to determine ordering of events. Originally developed to support the Spanner distributed database, TrueTime is a clock implementation that depends on two key factors: well engineered and accurate GPS and atomic clocks and the representation of time as an interval of uncertainty. Representing TrueTime TrueTime explicitly represents each timestamp an interval that includes bounded time uncertainty. TrueTime represents time as an interval of the type TTinterval, which includes two timestamps for the beginning and the end of the interval. [Read More]

Vector Clocks

Vector clocks are an extension of Lamport Clocks designed to determine all correct orderings of events in a distributed system. Whereas Lamport Clocks yield one of the many possible event orderings, this does not for certain classes of problems that require knowledge of global program state such as reversing the order of execution to recover from errors or rollback. In such cases, it is more useful to have access to the entire set of orderings that are causally consistent at any moment in time. [Read More]

Lamport Clocks

Ordering events in a distributed system

Computers generally track the current time using a quartz crystal that oscillates at a known frequency. This frequency is used to advance the local clock at pre-defined intervals. Quartz oscillates with enough stability that it can be used to maintain time within a few milliseconds of accuracy per day. Over time however, these imperfections can accumulate, making the clock inaccurate. To fix these inaccuracies, computers typically run a background process like NTP to synchronize the local clock with servers that are known to be accurate. [Read More]

How Does NTP Work?

The Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a system for synchronizing the clocks of hosts and clients across the Internet. NTP is a protocol intended to synchronize all computers participating in the network to within a few milliseconds of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The core of the protocol is NTP’s clock discipline algorithm that adjusts the local computer’s clock time and tick frequency in response to an external source — such as another trusted NTP server, a radio or satellite receiver, or a telephone modem. [Read More]