Facebook developers are announcing time card development

A few Facebook engineers declare that they have developed time cards – PCIe cards that can be used as timekeeping devices on x86 architecture machines. Ahmad Byagowi and Oleg Obelukhov announced that the technology behind the Time Cards was Open Source on their Facebook Engineering blog.

Computers must know what time it is, and this requirement is becoming more essential as computers expand in size, complexity, and connectivity. Personal computers, phones, and video games, as well as large data networks like those used by Facebook, require accurate timekeeping to keep programs operating in an orderly way, which is especially important in dispersed networks.


Sending and receiving messages to and from the internet is the current technique of time monitoring for devices such as phones. Devices that link to satellites or land-based atomic clocks are used in larger operations. Because of the many methods in which computers acquire access to time monitoring, Byagowi and Obleukhov began working on a more uniform approach. They envisioned a gadget that could be connected to a computer to keep track of time without requiring internet access, a low-cost device that anyone with only a few hundred dollars could build themselves.

The Time Card is the gadget that the couple devised, a card that slots into a motherboard slot and looks similar to other devices such as GPUs. When the Time Card is inserted into a server, it is referred to as a time appliance on Facebook. The cards operate by intercepting radio waves transmitted by GNSS navigation satellites, which are connected with oscillators; a CPU keeps everything operating smoothly. The cards are also configurable, allowing developers to tailor them to the demands of various user populations. Small networks, for example, could probably do with a crystal oscillator, but large clients would wish to include a tiny atomic clock.

To promote the new standard, the researchers made their designs available under open source license, both hardware and software. They further point out that certain card companies, such as Orolia, have already begun making cards, and that Facebook’s data centers converted to the new technology in March.

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