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Cisco IOS DHCP Server with Option 43 for LWAP’s

with 4 comments

Cisco routers (and switches) have the ability to hand out DHCP addresses, so if you have a relatively small branch office & you don’t want to set up a full DHCP server you can simply add that functionality to your Cisco device.

It does take quite a few lines to get this going but I wouldn’t consider it to be a complicated configuration, each parameter is pretty self-explanatory. Let’s look at a typically IOS DHCP configuration.

Now the first thing you want to do is define the DHCP pool with the ip dhcp pool poolname command this puts us into (dhcp-config)# mode where we can configure addition parameters for this pool. Next you see the network 192.168.20.0 255.255.255.0 command which defines our DHCP range followed the default gateway, DHCP lease duration (3 days in this case), the DNS Server the for the DHCP clients, and finally the domain name.

The next thing we are going to do is configure some DHCP exclusions, these are simply addresses we tell the DHCP service not to hand out. We are also going to change the amount of times the router pings an address before it declares the address available.

Now the exclusions are done from (config)# mode (but as you can see they can be entered from (dhcp-config)# mode) along with the ip dhcp ping packets 4. The Cisco device will ping an IP address within the pool to see if it available, by default the device will send 2 pings if they both time out it assumes the address is available, here you can see I changed it to send 4 pings.

You can view any DHCP leases by issuing the Sh ip dhcp binding command. (Yes I know the time is a bit off but this my lab switch)

Now for some bonus content, I was going to split this up into multiple posts but figured I would just roll it in.

We are going to configure Option 43 in our DHCP scope. Option 43 is vendor specific, and is used by Cisco LWAPs to find and join WLC controllers. It’s all done in the following line:

As you can see this is also done within the DHCP Pool at the (dhcp-config)# configuration mode. The tough part here is figuring out the hex value however the hex value consists of 3 parts. The first part is the type which is always 0xF1, followed by the length which is the number of controller management IP address times 4 (So if you have 2 controllers for redundancy it would be 2 x 4 = 0x08), the third part consists of the ip addresses of controllers management interface in hex. (Now seriously did you ever seeing yourself converting IP’s to hex, or did you use a hex calculator?). For this example I used 2 management IP addresses 192.168.2.5 which is C0A80205 in hex and 192.168.3.5 which is C0A80305 in hex. Now all that together gives us the f108C0A80205C0A80305 hex string seen the above configuration.

Now here’s a DHCP packet with the Option 43 field:

Now packet analysis can be a bit daunting at first, but if you go line by line, you can easily make out everything that was configured, you see the option number and the hex value we entered, now your LWAPs in branch offices will be able receive a DHCP address and still find your WLC’s.

For more information on setting up a Cisco device as a DHCP click here. (This guide goes much more in depth then my post)

For more information on DHCP Option 43 and Cisco LWAP click here.

Written by Stephen J. Occhiogrosso

April 29, 2011 at 5:52 PM

4 Responses

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  1. […] on different subnets but still in the same physical location), either through name resolution or DHCP. This is article covers how the LWAP looks for the controller. As long as the LWAP finds the […]

  2. […] Cisco IOS DHCP Server with Option 43 for LWAP’s with 1,617 views […]

  3. What is the configuration option for option 43, in case sending multiple sub options in one option 43 packet ?

    Raveendra Narayanappa

    August 31, 2016 at 7:33 PM

    • Please elaborate on that question.

      Unfortunately you can not have multiple option 43’s over the same subnet. You can send multiple controller IPs in the same option though.

      Stephen J. Occhiogrosso

      August 31, 2016 at 7:36 PM


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