The Asynchronous to Network Time Source (ANTS)

System Attributes

Windows© based application running on diskless solid-state Windows 10 embedded systems:

Interfaces - bespoke serial and customized TN3270 across Ethernet TCP/IP:

Core processes - OfficeCraft software and libraries written in Delphi.


ANTS provides a single source of standard time for multi-processor mainframe systems. It is a Windows© application that was designed to be compatible with any system running any version of Windows©. The recommended implementation uses dedicated diskless systems running Windows 10 embedded.

ANTS uses time calibration signals from a highly accurate external time source to provide calibration for date and time information sent to the attached mainframe systems. The implementation includes receiving time signals via a bespoke serial interface and data transmission via TN3270 connections across en Ethernet running TCP/IP.

Key Technologies Used

Windows ANTS is designed for compatibility with all version of Windows©.
Delphi The application is written entirely in Delphi and using OfficeCraft Delphi libraries.
Serial Comms A specialized serial interface written using OfficeCraft Delphi library routines.
Ethernet TCP/IP Ethernet connections are used for mainframe connectivity and for system maintenance and support functions.
TN3270 A specialized custom form of TN3270 using OfficeCraft libraries that was developed to interface to several mainframe computers in a very demanding environment.

System Highlights

ANTS was produced at very short notice with a high reliability requirement, for a multi-mainframe system that was in the final stages of development.

By maximizing the use of library routines already in use (on other OfficeCraft produced, high reliability systems), the system was implemented and successfully tested on time.

It has now achieved reliability in excess of 60,000 hours, without a single outage.

Whilst ANTS has few processing requirements, it is highly flexible in its interface capabilities, not only in respect of the physical medium being used, but also in the software control and use of those interfaces. It was designed to be a highly responsive time server with an adaptive interface to enable an existing system to continue to use a bespoke timer update system but interfaced via an entirely new way.

ANTS is currently used by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) operational flight data processing systems to provide a central, accurate and reliable time source. It uses a bespoke central time source, driven from an international agency, via a slow speed serial line as its reference. It outputs calendar and time information via a Visara Ethernet communications controller, using TN3270 protocol. Adaptation data is used to control every aspect of this process. ANTS can monitor and transmit the date/time information to at least four (4) concurrent mainframe sessions.