Milliseconds matter: How precision timing in data centers is key to the online experience

Whether you’re shopping, gaming or looking for a new apartment, the time you spend engaged online directly correlates with the effectiveness of data center timing solutions.
Rick Knea
Children playing video games

We all have pet hates when it comes to browsing the internet. My own happens to be poorly designed cookie consent banners. If I can’t swat those things away quickly, I often abandon the page I’m trying to view. Not exactly logical, I know. Nevertheless, my experience isn’t unique. It’s well understood that degraded user experiences lead to loss of engagement and, ultimately, lost revenue. And the issue isn’t just limited to poor user interfaces.

To explain, let’s return to the end user POV. In online shopping, there’s a phenomenon called cart abandonment. We’ve all been there. We select the items we want, but when we click on the shopping cart icon, the checkout page either loads slowly or doesn’t load at all. Faced with this, we fail to complete the purchase. For companies, this means lost revenue, and it can even result in a tarnished brand image.

Financial costs

The lesson, then, is to get your load times up to speed. It’s e-commerce 101. Do not frustrate your customer into going elsewhere. This is especially important in a virtual retail environment where customers don’t have to cross a road to reach your competitor. They must only visit another website or open up a trusted app. Speed is everything, user experience is everything, and making these things a priority means investing in precise and ultra-reliable data center timing.

Online gaming is another area where latency impacts end users. Gaming platforms serious about retaining customers (and the revenues they generate through various types of engagement) do everything possible to ensure player experiences are lag and jitter-free. Millisecond delays spell the difference between winning and losing for gamers slogging it out in a virtual arena, so here too, poorly implemented timing and synchronization has serious financial consequences.

Even in well-designed timing and synchronization architectures, there is a substantial (and growing) risk of GNNS outages and interruptions.
Every millisecond counts

There are other examples of how latency directly affects the quality of user experiences. But one of the more interesting — yet subtle — results from tiny amounts of latency spread across a large user base. Various studies and published insights from some of the world’s biggest online platforms demonstrate that barely perceptible interruptions to page load times (from the user perspective) result in substantial revenue losses.

But even when your data center timing and synchronization infrastructure provides the most precise network timing possible, can you guarantee its reliability? Time is money. This is a fact becoming ever more salient in a world where losing the battle for attention is an existential threat to online platforms. Even in well-designed timing and synchronization architectures, there is a substantial (and growing) risk of GNNS outages and interruptions. That’s why positioning navigation and timing (PNT) solutions must be robust, resilient and include built-in failsafes. 

The global navigation satellite system (GNSS) — the primary source of coordinated universal time (UTC) on which data center timing is primarily based — is highly vulnerable to cyberattacks like jamming and spoofing. GNSS signals are also weak, meaning they can be easily disrupted by atmospheric conditions or even space weather. Therefore, deploying technologies that mitigate threats to GNSS while also providing a trusted backup for when satellite information is unavailable is essential.

Assured data center timing

Adtran’s Oscilloquartz assured PNT (aPNT+™️) technology suite enables a zero-trust, multi-source and redundant timing and synchronization architecture that ensures no loss of performance, even when GNSS is unavailable for long periods. The system is built around three core elements: multi-layer detection, multi-source backup and multi-level fault tolerant mitigation. Combining a range of technologies, the platform delivers unparalleled threat detection with multiple backup options. 

Improving end-user experiences begins with ensuring the continuity and accuracy of data center timing. Our aPNT+™️ technology conforms to international standards for the assured delivery of PNT in national defense networks. It’s little wonder, then, that data center operators are increasingly turning to Adtran’s aPNT+™️ platform to render their timing and synchronization architectures more robust, resilient and precise.

Related articles