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  details the
interactions between BOOTP and DHCP clients and servers . There
are some new, optional transactions that optimize the interaction
between DHCP clients and servers that are described in sections 3 and
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."
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
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
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
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
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 . 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 . 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