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Configuring Solaris DHCP Server


DHCP Protocol

Solaris books Recommended Links DHCP Client Selected Solaris man pages Reference Solaris DHCP Server
dhcpsvc.conf dhcpconfig Utility pntadm Utility dhtadm Utility dhcp_network File DHCP security Humor Etc

Solaris has separate daemons for DHCP client ( dhcpagent ) and DHCP server (in.dhcpd ).

Solaris DHCP  daemon is started automatically during  bootup if file /etc/dhcp.interface  exists for at lest one interface  Only interfaces  with a corresponding  /etc/dhcp.interface file are automatically configured during boot.

Like DNS there can be primary and secondary DHCP servers but secondary DHCP servers are not a requirement and they are not that common.  Primary and secondary DHCP servers must have access to the exact same data. Copies cannot be used. This can be achieved by via NIS and NFS.  Both run in.dhcpd daemon:

There are two alterative ways (command line based and GUI-based) to configure DHCP servers (and BOOTP relay servers):

Both utilities permit setting of startup options, configure the DHCP service database type (binary or text) and location, as well as initialize the dhcptab and dhcp_network tables for the DHCP zone that the server controls.

/etc/inet/dhcpsvc.conf File

The /etc/inet/dhcpsvc.conf file contains configuration information and typically is populated using utilities that we mentioned above, although nothing prevents you for editing it manually. It the configuration file is not present, then the server does not run DHCP daemon. The content is a typical Unix-style configuration file with keyword-value pairs:

cat /etc/inet/dhcpsvc.conf


dhcpconfig Utility

Use the dhcpconfig utility can:

The initial configuration is performed by command:

/usr/sbin/dhcpconfig -D -r datastore -p location


The dhcpconfig utility uses the appropriate system and network files, such as hosts, netmasks, and so on, on the DHCP server to determine values that are not provided on the command line.

Configuration is done in two steps:

First we need to provide type of storage and path to DHCP tables:

/usr/sbin/dhcpconfig -D -r SUNWfiles -p /var/dhcp
Created DHCP configuration file.
Created dhcptab.
Added "Locale" macro to dhcptab.
Added server macro to dhcptab - mydhcpsrv
DHCP server started.

Second we specify IP range for which DHCP services should be performed. For example:

/usr/sbin/dhcpconfig -N -t
Added network macro to dhcptab -
Created network table.

Here we configured the system to provide DHCP services for the network (option -N) with the router (option -t). As a result the dhcp_network file will be created.

dhcp_network File

A separate dhcp_network file exists for each network that is served by the DHCP server. It contains the range of IP addresses that the DHCP server assigns (DHCP zone). The file also maps the associated configuration parameters for each IP address assigned to the clients.

Each dhcp_network file is named using the IP address of the network it supports with the either SUNWbinfiles prefix (binary files format) or SUNWfiles prefix (text files format). For example, SUNWfiles1_10_10_1_0 is a text format file for network You can view it using command:

cat SUNWfiles1_10_10_1_0 command

pntadm Utility

The pntadm utility performs three main functions: :

Options include:

Typical operations:

  1. To create a table for the network, perform the command: pntadm -C

    To verify that the network table was created, perform the command: ls /var/dhcp | grep 10.10.10

    Note – You can use an alias name for this network in place of the network number if the alias is defined in the networks(4) file.

  2. To view the initial contents of the new table, or iew the changes using the table, perform the command: cat /var/dhcp/SUNWfiles1_10_10_10_0
  3. To add an entry to the SUNWfiles1_10.10.10.0 table located in the /var/dhcp directory, perform the command:

    pntadm -r SUNWfiles -p /var/dhcp -A

  4. To modify the entry of the SUNWfiles1_10.10.10.0 table, change the macro name (-m) to mymacro, and set the flags field to MANUAL and PERMANENT, perform the command:

    pntadm -M -m mymacro -f 'PERMANENT+MANUAL'

  5. To change the entry to (-n), perform the command: pntadm -M -n To verify the changes, perform the command: pntadm -P
  6. To delete the entry from the table, perform the command: pntadm -D To verify the changes, perform the command: pntadm -P
  7. To list the existing DHCP tables, perform the command: pntadm -L

To view the table and observe the changes made by the pntadm command, perform the command:

cat /var/dhcp/SUNWfiles1_10_10_10_0
# SUNWfiles1_10_10_10_0
# Do NOT edit this file by hand -- use pntadm(1M) or dhcpmgr(1M) instead|00|00||0|8214847195300495361|UNKNOWN|

To view the changes, again use pntadm -P


dhtadm Utility

Use the dhtadm utility to manage the DHCP service configuration table, dhcptab. You can specify one of the following option flags:

Lease Policy

A lease specifies the amount of time the DHCP server grants permission to a DHCP client to use a particular IP address. During the initial server configuration, you must specify a site-wide lease policy, indicating the lease time and whether clients can renew their leases. The server uses the information you supply to set option values in the default macros it creates during configuration. You can set different lease policies for specific clients or type of clients, by setting options in configuration macros you create.

The lease time is specified as a number of hours, days, or weeks for which the lease is valid. When a client is assigned an IP address (or renegotiates a lease on an IP address it is already assigned), the lease expiration date and time is calculated by adding the number of hours in the lease time to the timestamp on the client's DHCP acknowledgment. For example, if the timestamp of the DHCP acknowledgment is September 16, 1999 9:15 A.M., and the lease time is 24 hours, the lease expiration time is September 17, 1999 9:15 A.M.

The lease expiration time is stored in the client's DHCP network record, viewable in the DHCP Manager or using pntadm .

The lease time value should be relatively small, so that expired addresses are reclaimed quickly, but large enough so that if your DHCP service becomes unavailable, the clients continue to function until the machine(s) running the DHCP service can be repaired. A rule of thumb is to specify a time that is two times the predicted down time of a server. For example, if it generally takes four hours to obtain and replace a defective part and reboot the server, you should specify a lease time of eight hours.

The lease negotiation option determines whether or not a client can renegotiate its lease with the server before the lease expires. If lease negotiation is allowed, the client tracks the time remaining in its lease, and when half the lease time is used, the client requests the DHCP server to extend its lease to the original lease time. Disallowing lease negotiation is useful for environments where there are more machines than IP addresses, so the time limit is enforced on the use of IP addresses. If there are enough IP addresses, lease negotiation should be permitted to avoid forcing a client to take down its network interface and obtain a new lease, possibly interrupting their TCP connections (such as NFS and telnet sessions). Lease negotiation can be set site-wide during the server configuration, and for particular clients or types of clients through the use of the LeaseNeg option in configuration macros.

Note - Systems providing services on the network should retain their IP addresses, and should not be subject to short-term leases. You can use DHCP with such machines by assigning them reserved (manual) IP addresses, rather than IP addresses with permanent leases.

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Old News ;-)

[Nov 22, 2006] SUMMARY (incomplete) Sun Solaris DHCP Server v. ISC DHCP Server

Bryan J. Smith b.j.smith at
Sat Jul 20 18:14:32 EDT 2002
I received messages from people running both Solaris' built-in (or
unbundled) DHCP server as well as ISC's DHCP server on Solaris 2.5.1+. 
This summary is largely incomplete, as the responses given did _not_
show Sun's included Solaris DHCP Server has anything to offer over ISC's
DHCP Server.  Some people "guessed" that there might be some ONC+/NIS+
failover options, but no one confirmed this.

However, I still received a lot of good information.

- AVOID:  Solaris version 2.6 (and earlier unbundled) DHCP servers

Several people confirmed that pre-Solaris version 2.7 DHCP servers were

- RECOMMEND:  Solaris version 2.8 10/01 (and later) DHCP servers

Several people confirmed that Solaris 2.8 10/01 and later are working
flawlessly for them.  Installing all post-10/01 DHCP patches is also

Most are impressed with the GUI administration tools in these late DHCP
server releases which seem to make administration easier than ISC's DHCP
server "single, flat config file" setup.

- SCNA Note:  Study up on the Solaris DHCP server, it's 10% of the exam

As I mentioned before, if you plan on taking the Sun Certified Network
Administrator (SCNA) exam, be sure you know the bundled Solaris DHCP
_server_ in and out.  It's _nothing_ like the ISC server, and most of
the books (including Sun's SCNA Study Guide), and even the on-line Sun
Docs, are _dead_wrong_ in many areas.  Learn it from a working system
(which we should all be doing anyway, right? ;-).

-- Bryan

P.S.  I feel I must add this, so my apologize in advance:

In responses, several people accused me of "cheating" on the SCNA by
using some of the available "training/study guides."  I think people
forget that "computer-administered" examinations are _not_ about what
you know (let alone any extensive SunOS/Solaris experience -- I have 10
years, 6 _very_heavy_!), but if you can pass the objectives on the
examination which are usually _not_ "real-world" situations.  Most
"computer-administered" examinations try to be "hard" by either A)
making you memorize things that you usually hit the man pages for (this
is the Sun approach) or B) being very ambiguous in an attempt to confuse
the test taker (this is the Microsoft approach).  I agree that _neither_
is a good test for experienced administrators -- hence the "paper
certification" moniker (which I _do_ believe is an adequate
description).  Yes, it is possible that an experienced admin will pass
them "straight up," but if you want to get 90%+ (like I do), you use the
books to "brush up" on areas where you are weak.

Only "performance-based" laboratory/peer-reviewed examinations -- like
select Cisco certifications (and those modeled after them -- e.g.,
RedHat RHCE) test for "real world" experience where study guides are
useless (e.g., the RHCE passing rate went down drastically after
Syngress released its RHCE Study Guide).  While I would love to see
_all_ certifications follow the "performance-based" path (possibly with
background/experience checks like the CISSP), many HR departments are
using "paper certifications" right now to "filter out" candidates. 
Hence why I started sucking up certifications last month, because I'm
currently unemployed and I cannot find self-employment without these
little bits of paper that prospective clients want.  So cut me some
slack on the certs please, I'm even a degreed engineer (and _hate_ the
vendor "engineer" crap too ;-).

Bryan J. Smith, E.I.   mailto:b.j.smith at   (407)489-7013
CompTIA A+ i-Net+ Linux+ Network+ Server+          Sun SCSA SCNA
SmithConcepts, Inc. --
Consulting Engineers and IT Professionals
sunmanagers mailing list
sunmanagers at

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dhcpagent(1M) – Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) client daemon

dhcpconfig(1M) – DHCP service configuration utility

dhcpmgr(1M) – graphical interface for managing DHCP service

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