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Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is a network management protocol used to dynamically assign an IP address to nay device, or node, on a network so they can communicate using IP (Internet Protocol). DHCP automates and centrally manages these configurations. There is no need to manually assign IP addresses to new devices. Therefore, there is no requirement for any user configuration to connect to a DHCP based network.

DHCP can be implemented on local networks as well as large enterprise networks. DHCP is the default protocol used by the most routers and networking equipment. DHCP is also called RFC (Request for comments) 2131.

DHCP does the following:

  • DHCP manages the provision of all the nodes or devices added or dropped from the network.
  • DHCP maintains the unique IP address of the host using a DHCP server.
  • It sends a request to the DHCP server whenever a client/node/device, which is configured to work with DHCP, connects to a network. The server acknowledges by providing an IP address to the client/node/device.

DHCP is also used to configure the proper subnet mask, default gateway and DNS server information on the node or device.

There are many versions of DCHP are available for use in IPV4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) and IPV6 (Internet Protocol Version 6).

How DHCP works

DHCP runs at the application layer of the TCP/IP protocol stack to dynamically assign IP addresses to DHCP clients/nodes and to allocate TCP/IP configuration information to the DHCP clients. Information includes subnet mask information, default gateway, IP addresses and domain name system addresses.

DHCP is based on client-server protocol in which servers manage a pool of unique IP addresses, as well as information about client configuration parameters, and assign addresses out of those address pools.

The DHCP lease process works as follows:

  • First of all, a client (network device) must be connected to the internet.
  • DHCP clients request an IP address. Typically, client broadcasts a query for this information.
  • DHCP server responds to the client request by providing IP server address and other configuration information. This configuration information also includes time period, called a lease, for which the allocation is valid.
  • When refreshing an assignment, a DHCP clients request the same parameters, but the DHCP server may assign a new IP address. This is based on the policies set by the administrator.

Components of DHCP

When working with DHCP, it is important to understand all of the components. Following are the list of components:

  • DHCP Server: DHCP server is a networked device running the DCHP service that holds IP addresses and related configuration information. This is typically a server or a router but could be anything that acts as a host, such as an SD-WAN appliance.
  • DHCP client: DHCP client is the endpoint that receives configuration information from a DHCP server. This can be any device like computer, laptop, IoT endpoint or anything else that requires connectivity to the network. Most of the devices are configured to receive DHCP information by default.
  • IP address pool: IP address pool is the range of addresses that are available to DHCP clients. IP addresses are typically handed out sequentially from lowest to the highest.
  • Subnet: Subnet is the partitioned segments of the IP networks. Subnet is used to keep networks manageable.
  • Lease: Lease is the length of time for which a DHCP client holds the IP address information. When a lease expires, the client has to renew it.
  • DHCP relay: A host or router that listens for client messages being broadcast on that network and then forwards them to a configured server. The server then sends responses back to the relay agent that passes them along to the client. DHCP relay can be used to centralize DHCP servers instead of having a server on each subnet.

Benefits of DHCP

There are following benefits of DHCP:

Centralized administration of IP configuration: DHCP IP configuration information can be stored in a single location and enables that administrator to centrally manage all IP address configuration information.

Dynamic host configuration: DHCP automates the host configuration process and eliminates the need to manually configure individual host. When TCP/IP (Transmission control protocol/Internet protocol) is first deployed or when IP infrastructure changes are required.

Seamless IP host configuration: The use of DHCP ensures that DHCP clients get accurate and timely IP configuration IP configuration parameter such as IP address, subnet mask, default gateway, IP address of DND server and so on without user intervention.

Flexibility and scalability: Using DHCP gives the administrator increased flexibility, allowing the administrator to move easily change IP configuration when the infrastructure changes.


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