This chapter describes the predecessors to DHCP, the Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP) and the Bootstrap Protocol (BOOTP). These two protocols are illustrated here to highlight the need for a more robust and dynamic configuration protocol as well as to provide a basic foundation to understanding DHCP.
RARP is a protocol that exists at the Data Link Layer. Think of it as the exact opposite of ARP (described in Chapter 1). It provides a mechanism for a host to determine its IP address when it is only aware of its MAC address.
RARP typically is utilized when a diskless workstation is booted. Since it does not have any IP configuration data stored locally, it must use RARP to find out its IP address. RARP accomplishes this by using a client/server process. The RARP server contains a database that simply maps IP addresses to their corresponding MAC addresses.
When a RARP client wants to find out its IP address, it sends a broadcast Ethernet frame (target MAC address = FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF) containing its MAC address. The RARP server, upon receiving the message, looks up the requester’s MAC address in its RARP table. If a match is found, the RARP server creates a reply packet that contains the requester’s IP address (see Figure 2.1). If no match is found, the packet is discarded.
Figure 2-1. Example of RARP
Although very basic in functionality, ...