Network Technologies

Computers on a IP networks need some essentials information before it can communicate with other hosts. This information include an IP address, and a default route and routing prefix. Configuring IP addressing on a large TCP/IP-based network can be a nightmare, especially if machines are moved from one network to another frequently. DHCP eliminates the manual task by a network administrator. The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) can help with the workload of configuring systems on a network by assigning addresses to systems on boot-up automatically. It also provides a central database of devices that are connected to the network and eliminates duplicate resource assignments.

DHCP server may have three methods of allocating IP-addresses:

static allocation: The DHCP server allocates an IP address based on a table with MAC address/IP address pairs, which are manually filled Only requesting clients with a MAC address listed in this table will be allocated an IP address.

dynamic allocation: A network administrator assigns a range of IP addresses to DHCP, and each client computer on the LAN is configured to request an IP address from the DHCP server during network initialization.

automatic allocation: The DHCP server permanently assigns a free IP address to a requesting client from the range defined by the administrator. This is like dynamic allocation, but the DHCP server keeps a table of past IP address assignments, so that it can preferentially assign to a client the same IP address that the client previously had.

Among these three method static and dynamic method are the most popular implementation.

How DHCP work

DHCP provides an automated way to distribute and update IP addresses and other configuration information on a network. A DHCP server provides this information to a DHCP client through the exchange of a series of messages, known as the DHCP conversation or the DHCP transaction.

DHCP discovery

The client computers broadcasts messages on the physical subnet to discover available DHCP servers. This client-computers creates a User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packet with the default broadcast destination of 255.255.255.255 or the specific subnet broadcast address if any configured.

DHCP offer

When a DHCP server receives an IP lease request from a client, it reserves an IP address for the client and extends an IP lease offer by sending a DHCPOFFER message to the client. This message contains the client's MAC address, the IP address that the server is offering, the subnet mask, the lease duration, and the IP address of the DHCP server making the offer.

DHCP request

In most companies, two DHCP servers provide fault tolerance of IP addressing if one server fails or must be taken offline for maintenance. So client could receive DHCP offers from multiple servers, but it will accept only one DHCP offer. In response to the offer Client requests the server. The client replies DHCP Request, unicast to the server, requesting the offered address. Based on the Transaction ID field in the request, servers are informed whose offer the client has accepted. When other DHCP servers receive this message, they withdraw any offers that they might have made to the client and return the offered address to the pool of available addresses. In some cases DHCP request message is broadcast, instead of being unicast to a particular DHCP server, because the DHCP client has still not received an IP address. Also, this way one message can let all other DHCP servers know that another server will be supplying the IP address without missing any of the servers with a series of unicast messages.

DHCP acknowledgement

When the DHCP server receives the DHCPREQUEST message from the client, the configuration process enters its final phase. The acknowledgement phase involves sending a DHCPACK packet to the client. This packet includes the lease duration and any other configuration information that the client might have requested. At this point, the IP configuration process is completed.