White Rabbit, a CERN born open-source technology sets new global standard empowering world innovators


The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has incorporated the White Rabbit technology into its industry standard, maximising its adoption by industry and other partners in their pursuit to build innovative solutions for world challenges

Knowledge & Technology Transfer,open hardware,white rabbit
Photos of the White Rabbit team and equipment (Image: CERN)

White Rabbit (WR) is a technology developed at CERN to provide sub-nanosecond accuracy and picoseconds precision of synchronisation for the LHC accelerators chain. It was first used in 2012 and since then has been showcasing its diverse industrial applications outside the field of particle physics. On 16 June, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) updated the Precision Time Protocol industry-standard (PTP) incorporating the White Rabbit PTP extension and thus maximising its adoption by industry and other partners in their pursuit to build innovative solutions to address world challenges.

CERN developed WR as open-source hardware, with primary adoption by other research infrastructures with similar challenges in highly accurate synchronization of distributed electronic devices. The R&D process and all knowledge gained throughout the development has been made available through CERN's Open Hardware Repository. This gives other organisations and companies the freedom to use and modify existing developments. Through proactive engagement of CERN's Knowledge Transfer group and Beam Controls group, a larger group of companies and organisations connected to the development of hardware, software, and gateware for WR switches and nodes. The WR ecosystem quickly grew to include several organisations, developing open hardware for widespread benefit. This collaborative approach brought improvements to the original concept, allowing CERN to also benefit from the new developments as well.

This new Ethernet-based technology, which ensures sub-nanosecond synchronisation and deterministic data transfer, is now deployed in numerous scientific infrastructures worldwide. It has shown its innovative potential by being commercialised and introduced into different industries, including telecommunications, financial markets, smart grids, space industry and quantum computing.

The WR technology has now been recognised with a worldwide industry-standard, called Precision Time Protocol (PTP), governed by the IEEE, the world's largest technical professional organisation dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. The WR additions to the PTP standard, referred to as High Accuracy, allow to increase PTP's synchronisation performance by a few orders of magnitude, from sub-microseconds to sub-nanoseconds.

“PTP is the first IEEE standard to incorporate a CERN-born technology. This is a major step for White Rabbit. It is already widely used in large scientific facilities and its adoption in industry is gaining momentum. Its incorporation into the PTP standard will allow hardware vendors world-wide to produce WR equipment compliant with the PTP standard and consequently accelerate its dissemination on a larger scale," says Maciej Lipinski, Electronics Engineer at CERN, who has led the WR standardisation effort.