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TCP/IP Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
In some ways, technological advancement
can be considered more a journey than a destination. When a particular
technology is refined or replaced with a superior one, it's usually
only a matter of time before it too is replaced with something better.
And so it was with the TCP/IP
Boot Protocol. While BOOTP was far more
capable than the protocol it replaced (RARP),
after a number of years BOOTP itself was replaced with a new TCP/IP
configuration protocol: the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP).
Where BOOTP represented a revolutionary
change from RARP, DHCP is more of an evolution of BOOTP. It was built
using BOOTP as a foundation, with the same basic message format. The
most significant addition in DHCP is the ability to dynamically
assign addresses to clients and to centrally manage them. It is this
capability that both gives DHCP its name, and makes it so powerful.
DHCP today is the standard TCP/IP host configuration protocol and is
used in everything from single-client home networks to enterprise-class
In this section I describe the concepts
behind DHCP and explain how it works in detail. I begin with a topic
that provides an overview of the protocol, discussing its history and
the standards that define it. I then have four subsections that describe
DHCP concepts and operation. The first talks about the different ways
DHCP can assign addresses, with a focus on dynamic addressing. The second
discusses how DHCP operates, including a look at configuration parameter
management and the procedures for allocating addresses and managing
those allocations. The third describes DHCP messaging and illustrates
the DHCP message format. The fourth gets into more of the details of
DHCP clients and servers, and also looks at special features and issues
with DHCP. Finally, I conclude with a topic describing how DHCP changes
to support the new IP version 6.
Related Information: Since DHCP builds upon BOOTP, they have a number of things in common. For example, DHCP makes use of BOOTP relay agent functionality, and DHCP options are basically the same as BOOTP vendor information fields. Since DHCP is the more common of the two protocols, I have tried to be complete in describing the operation of these features here, highlighting especially any differences between how they work for DHCP compared to BOOTP.
However, I have avoided duplicating the history and reasoning for the existence of many of these features. Since BOOTP came first, I have placed more of the historical information in the BOOTP section. In general, if you plan to read about DHCP as well as BOOTP, I recommend reading the section on BOOTP first. If you don't plan to read up on BOOTP, you may wish to check the topic on DHCP/BOOTP interoperability instead.
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The TCP/IP Guide (http://www.TCPIPGuide.com)
Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005
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