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2. Protocol Summary Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia
2. Protocol Summary

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2. Protocol Summary

2. Protocol Summary

From the client's point of view, DHCP is an extension of the BOOTP mechanism. This behavior allows existing BOOTP clients to interoperate with DHCP servers without requiring any change to the clients' initialization software. RFC 1542 [2] details the interactions between BOOTP and DHCP clients and servers [9]. There are some new, optional transactions that optimize the interaction between DHCP clients and servers that are described in sections 3 and 4.

Figure 1 gives the format of a DHCP message and table 1 describes each of the fields in the DHCP message. The numbers in parentheses indicate the size of each field in octets. The names for the fields given in the figure will be used throughout this document to refer to the fields in DHCP messages.

There are two primary differences between DHCP and BOOTP. First, DHCP defines mechanisms through which clients can be assigned a network address for a finite lease, allowing for serial reassignment of network addresses to different clients. Second, DHCP provides the mechanism for a client to acquire all of the IP configuration parameters that it needs in order to operate.

DHCP introduces a small change in terminology intended to clarify the meaning of one of the fields. What was the "vendor extensions" field in BOOTP has been re-named the "options" field in DHCP. Similarly, the tagged data items that were used inside the BOOTP "vendor extensions" field, which were formerly referred to as "vendor extensions," are now termed simply "options."

   0                   1                   2                   3
   0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
   +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
   |     op (1)    |   htype (1)   |   hlen (1)    |   hops (1)    |
   +---------------+---------------+---------------+---------------+
   |                            xid (4)                            |
   +-------------------------------+-------------------------------+
   |           secs (2)            |           flags (2)           |
   +-------------------------------+-------------------------------+
   |                          ciaddr  (4)                          |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+
   |                          yiaddr  (4)                          |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+
   |                          siaddr  (4)                          |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+
   |                          giaddr  (4)                          |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+
   |                                                               |
   |                          chaddr  (16)                         |
   |                                                               |
   |                                                               |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+
   |                                                               |
   |                          sname   (64)                         |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+
   |                                                               |
   |                          file    (128)                        |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+
   |                                                               |
   |                          options (variable)                   |
   +---------------------------------------------------------------+

                  Figure 1:  Format of a DHCP message

DHCP defines a new 'client identifier' option that is used to pass an explicit client identifier to a DHCP server. This change eliminates the overloading of the 'chaddr' field in BOOTP messages, where 'chaddr' is used both as a hardware address for transmission of BOOTP reply messages and as a client identifier. The 'client identifier' is an opaque key, not to be interpreted by the server; for example, the 'client identifier' may contain a hardware address, identical to the contents of the 'chaddr' field, or it may contain another type of identifier, such as a DNS name. The 'client identifier' chosen by a DHCP client MUST be unique to that client within the subnet to which the client is attached. If the client uses a 'client identifier' in one message, it MUST use that same identifier in all subsequent messages, to ensure that all servers correctly identify the client.

DHCP clarifies the interpretation of the 'siaddr' field as the address of the server to use in the next step of the client's bootstrap process. A DHCP server may return its own address in the 'siaddr' field, if the server is prepared to supply the next bootstrap service (e.g., delivery of an operating system executable image). A DHCP server always returns its own address in the 'server identifier' option.

   FIELD      OCTETS       DESCRIPTION
   -----      ------       -----------

   op            1  Message op code / message type.
                    1 = BOOTREQUEST, 2 = BOOTREPLY
   htype         1  Hardware address type, see ARP section in "Assigned
                    Numbers" RFC; e.g., '1' = 10mb ethernet.
   hlen          1  Hardware address length (e.g.  '6' for 10mb
                    ethernet).
   hops          1  Client sets to zero, optionally used by relay agents
                    when booting via a relay agent.
   xid           4  Transaction ID, a random number chosen by the
                    client, used by the client and server to associate
                    messages and responses between a client and a
                    server.
   secs          2  Filled in by client, seconds elapsed since client
                    began address acquisition or renewal process.
   flags         2  Flags (see figure 2).
   ciaddr        4  Client IP address; only filled in if client is in
                    BOUND, RENEW or REBINDING state and can respond
                    to ARP requests.
   yiaddr        4  'your' (client) IP address.
   siaddr        4  IP address of next server to use in bootstrap;
                    returned in DHCPOFFER, DHCPACK by server.
   giaddr        4  Relay agent IP address, used in booting via a
                    relay agent.
   chaddr       16  Client hardware address.
   sname        64  Optional server host name, null terminated string.
   file        128  Boot file name, null terminated string; "generic"
                    name or null in DHCPDISCOVER, fully qualified
                    directory-path name in DHCPOFFER.
   options     var  Optional parameters field.  See the options
                    documents for a list of defined options.

           Table 1:  Description of fields in a DHCP message

The 'options' field is now variable length. A DHCP client must be prepared to receive DHCP messages with an 'options' field of at least length 312 octets. This requirement implies that a DHCP client must be prepared to receive a message of up to 576 octets, the minimum IP datagram size an IP host must be prepared to accept [3]. DHCP clients may negotiate the use of larger DHCP messages through the 'maximum DHCP message size' option. The options field may be further extended into the 'file' and 'sname' fields.

In the case of a client using DHCP for initial configuration (before the client's TCP/IP software has been completely configured), DHCP requires creative use of the client's TCP/IP software and liberal interpretation of RFC 1122. The TCP/IP software SHOULD accept and forward to the IP layer any IP packets delivered to the client's hardware address before the IP address is configured; DHCP servers and BOOTP relay agents may not be able to deliver DHCP messages to clients that cannot accept hardware unicast datagrams before the TCP/IP software is configured.

To work around some clients that cannot accept IP unicast datagrams before the TCP/IP software is configured as discussed in the previous paragraph, DHCP uses the 'flags' field [21]. The leftmost bit is defined as the BROADCAST (B) flag. The semantics of this flag are discussed in section 4.1 of this document. The remaining bits of the flags field are reserved for future use. They MUST be set to zero by clients and ignored by servers and relay agents. Figure 2 gives the format of the 'flags' field.

                                    1 1 1 1 1 1
                0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5
                +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
                |B|             MBZ             |
                +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

                B:  BROADCAST flag

                MBZ:  MUST BE ZERO (reserved for future use)

                Figure 2:  Format of the 'flags' field


Next: 2.1 Configuration parameters repository

Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia
2. Protocol Summary

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