Solaris DHCP Administration Guide

Solaris DHCP Server

The Solaris DHCP server runs as a daemon in the Solaris operating environment on a host system. The server has two basic functions:

The Solaris DHCP server can also be configured to perform the following additional functions:

DHCP Server Management

As superuser, you can start, stop, and configure the DHCP server with the DHCP Manager, or with command-line utilities described in DHCP Command-Line Utilities. Generally, the DHCP server is configured to start automatically when the system boots, and stop when the system is shut down. You should not need to start and stop the server manually under normal conditions.

DHCP Data Store

All the data used by the Solaris DHCP server is maintained in a data store, which might be stored as plain text files, NIS+ tables, or binary-format files. While configuring the DHCP service, the administrator chooses the type of data store to be used. The section Choosing the Data Store describes the differences between the data stores. Data stores can be converted from one format to another using DHCP Manager or the dhcpconfig command.

You can also move data from one DHCP server's data store to another with export and import utilities that work with the data stores, even if the servers are using different data store formats. The entire content of a data store, or just some of the data within it, can be exported and imported using DHCP Manager or the dhcpconfig command.

Note –

Any database or file format can be used for DHCP data storage if you want to develop your own code module to provide an interface between Solaris DHCP (server and management tools) and the database. Solaris DHCP Service Developer's Guide contains information for doing this.

Within the Solaris DHCP data store are two types of tables, the contents of which you can view and manage by using either the DHCP Manager or command-line utilities. The data tables are:

The dhcptab Table

The dhcptab table contains all the information that clients can obtain from the DHCP server. The DHCP server scans the dhcptab each time it starts. The file name of the dhcptab varies according to the data store used. For example, the dhcptab created by the NIS+ data store SUNWnisplus is SUNWnisplus1_dhcptab.

The DHCP protocol defines a number of standard items of information that can be passed to clients. These items are referred to as parameters, symbols, or options. Options are defined in the DHCP protocol by numeric codes and text labels, but without values. Some commonly used standard options are shown in the following table.

Table 1–1 Sample DHCP Standard Options





Subnet mask IP address 


IP address for router 


IP address for DNS server 



Text string for client host name 



DNS domain name 

Some options are automatically assigned values when the administrator provides information during server configuration. The administrator can also explicitly assign values to other options at a later time. Options and their values are passed to the client to provide configuration information. For example, the option/value pair, DNSdmain=Georgia.Peach.COM, sets the client's DNS domain name to Georgia.Peach.COM.

Options can be grouped with other options in containers known as macros, which makes it easier to pass information to a client. Some macros are created automatically during server configuration, and contain options that were assigned values during configuration. Macros can also contain other macros.

The format of the dhcptab table is described in dhcptab(4) man page. In DHCP Manager, all the information shown in the Options and Macros tabs comes from the dhcptab table. See About Options for more information about options, and About Macros for more information about macros.

Note that the dhcptab table should not be edited manually. You should use either the dhtadm command or DHCP Manager to create, delete, or modify options and macros.

DHCP Network Tables

A DHCP network table maps client identifiers to IP addresses and the configuration parameters associated with each address. The format of the network tables is described in the dhcp_network(4) man page. In DHCP Manager, all the information shown in the Addresses tab is acquired from the network tables.

DHCP Manager

DHCP Manager is a graphical tool you can use to perform all management duties associated with DHCP services, and you must be root when you run it. You can use it to manage the server itself as well as the data the server uses. You can use DHCP Manager with the server in the following ways:

DHCP Manager allows you to manage the IP addresses, network configuration macros, and network configuration options in the following ways:

DHCP Manager allows you to manage the DHCP data stores in the following ways:

DHCP Manager includes extensive online help for procedures you can perform with the tool.

DHCP Command-Line Utilities

All DHCP management functions can be performed using command-line utilities. You can run them if you are logged in as root, or as a user assigned to the DHCP Management profile. See Setting Up User Access to DHCP Commands.

The following table lists the utilities and describes the purpose of each utility.

Table 1–2 DHCP Command-Line Utilities


Description and Purpose 


The DHCP service daemon. It provides command-line arguments that allow you to set several runtime options.


Used to configure and unconfigure a DHCP server. This utility enables you to perform many of the functions of DHCP Manager from the command line. It is primarily intended for use in scripts for sites that want to automate some configuration functions. dhcpconfig collects information from the server system's network topology files to create useful information for the initial configuration.


Used to add, delete, and modify configuration options and macros for DHCP clients. This utility lets you edit the dhcptab indirectly, which ensures the correct format of the dhcptab. You should not directly edit the dhcptab.


Used to manage the DHCP network tables. You can use this utility to add and remove IP addresses and networks under DHCP management, modify the network configuration for specified IP addresses, and display information about IP addresses and networks under DHCP management. 

Role-Based Access Control for DHCP Commands

Security for the dhcpconfig, dhtadm, and pntadm commands is determined by role-based access control (RBAC) settings. By default, the commands can be run only by root. If you want to be able to use the commands under another user name, you must assign the user name to the DHCP Management profile as described in Setting Up User Access to DHCP Commands.

DHCP Server Configuration

You configure the DHCP server the first time you run DHCP Manager on the system where you want to run the DHCP server. DHCP Manager server configuration dialogs prompt you for essential information needed to enable and run the DHCP server on one network. Some default values are obtained from existing system files. If you have not configured the system for the network, there will be no default values. DHCP Manager prompts for the following information:

You can also configure the DHCP server using the dhcpconfig command. This utility gathers information from existing system files automatically in order to provide a useful initial configuration. Therefore, you must ensure that the files are correct before running dhcpconfig. See the dhcpconfig(1M) man page for information about the files dhcpconfig uses to obtain information.

IP Address Allocation

The Solaris DHCP server supports the following types of IP address allocation:

Network Configuration Information

The administrator determines what information to provide to DHCP clients. When you configure the DHCP server you provide essential information about the network. Later, you can add more information you want to provide to clients.

The DHCP server stores network configuration information in the dhcptab database, in the form of option/value pairs and macros. Options are keywords for network data you want to supply to clients. Values are assigned to options and passed to clients in DHCP messages. For example, the NIS server address is passed by way of an option called NISservs that has a value (a list of IP addresses) assigned by the DHCP server. Macros provide a convenient way to group together any number of options that you want to supply to clients. You can use the DHCP Manager to create macros to group options and assign values to the options. If you prefer a nongraphical tool, you can use dhtadm, the DHCP configuration table management utility, to work with options and macros.

About Options

In Solaris DHCP, an option is a piece of network information to be passed to a client. The DHCP literature also refers to options as symbols or tags. An option is defined by a numeric code and a text label. An option receives a value when it is used in the DHCP service.

The DHCP protocol defines a large number of standard options for commonly specified network data: Subnet, Router, Broadcast, NIS+dom, Hostname, and LeaseTim are a few examples. A complete list of standard options is shown in the dhcp_inittab man page. You cannot modify the standard option keywords in any way, but you can assign values to the options that are relevant to your network when you include the options in macros.

You can create new options for data that is not represented by the standard options. Options you create must be classified in one of three categories:

Chapter 4, Administering DHCP includes procedures for creating, modifying, and deleting options.

About Macros

In the Solaris DHCP service, a macro is a collection of network configuration options and the values assigned to them by the system administrator. Macros are created to group options together to be passed to specific clients or types of clients. For example, a macro intended for all clients of a particular subnet might contain option/value pairs for subnet mask, router IP address, broadcast address, NIS+ domain, and lease time.

Macro Processing by the DHCP Server

When the DHCP server processes a macro, it places the network options and values defined in the macro in a DHCP message to a client. The server processes some macros automatically for clients of a particular type.

In order for the server to process a macro automatically, the name of the macro must comply with one of the categories shown in the following table.

Table 1–3 Macro Categories for Automatic Processing

Macro Category 


Client class 

The macro name matches a class of client, indicated by the client machine type and/or operating system. For example, if a server has a macro named SUNW.Ultra-1, any client whose hardware implementation is SUNW,Ultra-1 automatically receives the values in the SUNW.Ultra-1 macro.

Network address 

The macro name matches a DHCP-managed network IP address. For example, if a server has a macro named, any client connected to the network automatically receives the values in the macro.

Client ID 

The macro name matches some unique identifier for the client, usually derived from an Ethernet or MAC address. For example, if a server has a macro named 08002011DF32, the client with the client ID 08002011DF32 (derived from the Ethernet address 8:0:20:11:DF:32) automatically receives the values in the macro named 08002011DF32.

A macro with a name that does not use one of the categories listed in Table 1–3 can be processed only if one of the following is true:

Note –

When you configure a server, a macro that is named to match the server's name is created by default. This server macro is not processed automatically for any client because it is not named with one of the name types that cause automatic processing. When you later create IP addresses on the server, the IP addresses are mapped to use the server macro by default.

Order of Macro Processing

When a DHCP client requests DHCP services, the DHCP server determines which macros match the client. The server processes the macros, using the macro categories to determine the order of processing, from the more general to the specific. The macros are processed in the following order:

  1. Client class macros – the most general category

  2. Network address macros – more specific than Client class

  3. Macros mapped to IP addresses – more specific than Network address

  4. Client ID macros – the most specific category, pertaining to one client

A macro that is included in another macro is processed as part of the containing macro.

If the same option is included in more than one macro, the value set for that option in the macro with the most specific category is used because it is processed last. For example, if a Network address macro contained the lease time option with a value of 24 hours, and a Client ID macro contained the lease time option with a value of 8 hours, the client would receive a lease time of 8 hours.