Facebook speed up their data centers with u-blox GNSS technology

October 05, 2021 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Facebook speed up their data centers with u-blox GNSS technology
Facebook has open-sourced the design of their Time Card, which features the ultra-precise u-blox ZED-F9T GNSS timing module, providing easy access to nanosecond-level timing.

Swiss company, u-blox has announced that Facebook has chosen the u-blox ZED-F9T global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver module for their timekeeping card. By improving the synchronization of networked computers, Facebook’s Time Card can significantly speed up the performance of their data centers and distributed databases.

By open-sourcing their designs, Facebook has bolstered the adoption of highly accurate timing based on u-blox technology. These designs can easily be adopted by other industries requiring nanosecond-level timing, such as 5G cellular networks or smart power grids.

Facebook set out to create a precise timing PCIe card that reduces the computational overhead required when synchronizing the timing between different computers in a network. They used a u-blox ZED-F9T multi-band GNSS receiver to sync up their Time Card with the highly accurate atomic clocks onboard dozens of orbiting GNSS satellites. To bridge possible gaps in GNSS coverage and keep clock drift to a minimum, the Time Card also contains a backup source of timing: a miniaturized atomic clock that is continuously synchronized with GNSS time.

To maximize the impact, Facebook decided to open-source the design of their Time Card, which fits onto a PCIe form factor. As a result, anyone with experience working with microelectronics can turn any PC built on an x86 architecture and featuring a network interface controller into a nanosecond-level-accurate timing and synchronization solution.

Easy access to nanosecond-level timing accuracy – based on the u-blox RCB-F9T timing board, which hosts the u-blox ZED-F9T GNSS receiver – opens new avenues in industry segments that rely on highly synchronized signals, such as 5G network base stations that require tighter synchronization than those of previous generations. As power distribution networks become more complex to accommodate a growing share of decentralized renewable energy, they are becoming more reliant on reliable and accurate timing. And following Facebook’s example, data centers and computer networks will be able to modernize infrastructure management to speed up performance and reduce


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