Overview of DHCP

The DHCP client sends broadcast request packets to the network; the DHCP servers respond with broadcast packets that offer IP parameters, such as an IP address for the client. After the client chooses the IP parameters, communication between the client and server is by unicast packets.

The routing switches provide the DHCP relay agent to enable communication from a DHCP server to DHCP clients on subnets other than the one the server resides on. The DHCP relay agent transfers DHCP messages from DHCP clients located on a subnet without a DHCP server to other subnets. It also relays answers from DHCP servers to DHCP clients.

The DHCP relay agent is transparent to both the client and the server. Neither side is aware of the communications that pass through the DHCP relay agent. As DHCP clients broadcast requests, the DHCP relay agent receives the packets and forwards them to the DHCP server. During this process, the DHCP relay agent increases the hop count by one before forwarding the DHCP message to the server. A DHCP server includes the hop count from the DHCP request that it receives in the response that it returns to the client.