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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|VolumeV, Issue 2||February 2002|
By John T. Scott
"What exactly is DHCP?" Lets start with that. Lets at least make sure that we all at least know what were talking about. "DHCP" stands for the Dynamic Host Control Protocol". Big deal. What does that mean to me? Why should I care about this?
Have you ever seen an IP conflict message? Then you care. Have you ever tried to connect to the network, but could not because your local configuration isnt correct? Then you care a lot. Put simply, DHCP will solve all of those issues for you. By using the Dynamic Host Control Protocol, IP address are assigned dynamically to a PC or printer at the time it is first logged into the network. In fact all of the configuration information (gateway, DNS server information, etc) is delivered to the client PC. In this way the administration overhead involved with network connectivity is drastically reduced.
A conversion to DHCP is an integral part of the overall conversion of the States WAN to a routed environment. Once routing is in place, the only way any device will be able to connect to the network is by using a dynamically assigned IP address.
"I know everyone else in the State is converting to DHCP, but why should my agency?" This is a question I have heard a lot on the phone and in e-mail messages over the past several weeks. "Why not just wait until the WAN is routed, and then convert to DHCP?" Its a popular sentiment.
Every department in Maine State Government has to think about how they are going to handle the conversion to DHCP. Unfortunately, there is far more rumor and false assumption out there than there is good, solid fact. In my capacity as the States DNS/DHCP Administrator, it is my job to assist in any way I can to smooth the transition from static IP addresses to DHCP.
The most important thing to remember in this process is that an ounce of planning now is worth a gallon of perspiration later. If each State agency or department can take the time now to do some planning for the future, then the transition to a routed, DHCP enabled environment can be smooth and painless. If the planning phase is done properly, the actual conversion requires only that the settings be changed on the client PC or printer to enable DHCP, and the rest happens automatically.
The biggest reason that DHCP is better for everybody is in its general manageability. Once the network is completely converted to a routed, DHCP environment, the ability of network administrators to make changes to the architecture of the WAN that are seamless to the user community is greatly improved. If we need to change the entire addressing structure of the network, we could do this, and no user would experience the slightest interruption of service, or need to reconfigure. This is the overall goal. It will require that agencies work together to get through the planning and testing phases, but once the conversion is complete, the benefit to everyone will be immeasurable.
John T. Scott is the DNS/DHCP Administrator, in the Bureau of Information Services Enterprise Network Architecture Group. Contact him with questions by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.