34.0 DHCP

The purpose of the dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) is to assign network settings centrally from a server rather than configuring them locally on each and every workstation. A host configured to use DHCP does not have control over its own static address. It is enabled to configure itself completely and automatically according to directions from the server. If you use the NetworkManager on the client side, you do not need to configure the client at all. This is useful if you have changing environments and only one interface active at a time. Never use NetworkManager on a machine that runs a DHCP server.

HINT: IBM System z: DHCP Support

On IBM System z platforms, DHCP only works on interfaces using the OSA and OSA Express network cards. These cards are the only ones with a MAC, which is required for the DHCP autoconfiguration features.

One way to configure a DHCP server is to identify each client using the hardware address of its network card (which should be fixed in most cases), then supply that client with identical settings each time it connects to the server. DHCP can also be configured to assign addresses to each interested client dynamically from an address pool set up for that purpose. In the latter case, the DHCP server tries to assign the same address to the client each time it receives a request, even over longer periods. This works only if the network does not have more clients than addresses.

DHCP makes life easier for system administrators. Any changes, even bigger ones, related to addresses and the network configuration in general can be implemented centrally by editing the server's configuration file. This is much more convenient than reconfiguring numerous workstations. Also it is much easier to integrate machines, particularly new machines, into the network, because they can be given an IP address from the pool. Retrieving the appropriate network settings from a DHCP server is especially useful in the case of laptops regularly used in different networks.

A DHCP server supplies not only the IP address and the netmask, but also the hostname, domain name, gateway, and name server addresses for the client to use. In addition to that, DHCP allows a number of other parameters to be configured in a centralized way, for example, a time server from which clients may poll the current time or even a print server.