The DHCP protocol enables automatic network configuration of systems in a TCP/IP network. DHCP uses a client-server mechanism. DHCP servers store and manage configuration information for DHCP clients and provide that information upon a client's request. The information includes the client's IP address and information about network services that are available to the client.
DHCP evolved from an earlier protocol, BOOTP, which was designed for booting over a TCP/IP network. DHCP uses the same format as BOOTP for messages between the DHCP client and DHCP server. However, unlike BOOTP messages, DHCP messages can include network configuration data for the client.
A primary benefit of DHCP is its ability to manage IP address assignments through leases. Leases enable IP addresses to be reclaimed when they are not in use. The reclaimed IP addresses can be reassigned to other DHCP clients. A site that uses DHCP can use a smaller pool of IP addresses than would be needed if all DHCP clients were assigned a permanent IP address.
An implementation of the Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) DHCP server is included in Oracle Solaris. For more information, see ISC DHCP Server.