Router Advertisement Options to the Rescue – A Deep Dive into DHCPv6, Part 2

This is the sequel post to the first part in which I mainly covered some elements of the specification wrt the “on-link” flag and the IPv6 subnet model.
In short each IPv6 address has an associated flag which determines if the host considers the respective address to be part of “a network where neighbors exist”. If this is the case ND is performed to talk to them, otherwise all communication with other hosts on that prefix is sent to the router. This flag is NOT set for DHCPv6 addresses (and, btw, just to make this clear already, there’s no way of setting it as part of the DHCP configuration procedure either) so communication with hosts with the same DHCPv6 provided prefix is supposed to go through a router, which in turn is very different (behavior) from the IPv4 world.

At the end of the first part we had a configuration state which led to two global addresses on both systems involved, a DHCPv6 provided one and another one generated as part of the SLAAC process, which can create operational issues of all kinds (improper source address selection, hindered troubleshooting etc.). Furthermore such a setting does not reflect “the operational DHCPv4 model” which we envisaged as the ultimate goal of our exercise. I had finished that post along the lines: “we then have to get rid of the SLAAC address”.

Considering that the SLAAC address is generated based on the prefix information option (PIO) contained in router advertisements one might be tempted to conclude: “if possible configuration-wise, why not remove that bit of information from the router advertisements?”.
(we think:) Unfortunately some sources suggest exactly that.
Let’s give it a try. On Cisco this is done by the following command:

Router(config)#int vlan100
Router(config-if)#ipv6 nd prefix 2001:db8:6:6::/64 no-advertise

Here is the outcome:


IPv6 Address. . . . . . . . . . . : 2001:db8:6:6:40f5:46c0:f0ed:4168
Link-local IPv6 Address . . . . . : fe80::f9ca:18b6:7015:cca6%13
Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . : fe80::1%13


eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qlen 1000
inet6 2001:db8:6:6:94e:e384:7d17:4ed4/64 scope global
valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
inet6 fe80::3aea:a7ff:fe85:c926/64 scope link
valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever



Now, can Alice communicate with Bob?

D:\>ping 2001:db8:6:6:94e:e384:7d17:4ed4

Pinging 2001:db8:6:6:94e:e384:7d17:4ed4 with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 2001:db8:6:6:94e:e384:7d17:4ed4: time=2ms
Reply from 2001:db8:6:6:94e:e384:7d17:4ed4: time<1ms
Reply from 2001:db8:6:6:94e:e384:7d17:4ed4: time<1ms
Reply from 2001:db8:6:6:94e:e384:7d17:4ed4: time=1ms

Hooray! There’s only one (“managed”) global IPv6 address left and the hosts can communicate with each other, by means of it. We have achieved what we wanted (“DHCPv4 like network model”), right?

Well… not really, sorry guys! Go read the packets, Luke, and let’s determine what exactly happens on the network:


Apparently (and not surprisingly), again the initial echo request is not sent to the “neighboring DHCPv6 client”, but to the router. This leads to the following overall communication sequence:

redirect_sequenceSo, what happens can be broken down to:

– Alice sends first ping to the router (given DHCPv6 prefix is not considered “on-link).
– the router gracefully informs her that, from its understanding of the topology, this is not the optimal path. this notification happens by means of an ICMP redirect (type 137).
– some mutual neighbor solicitations are performed.
– based on the information learned from the ICMP redirect, Alice and Bob communicate in a direct manner (at least as long as “the redirected routing information is considered valid”).

Now, you might reply: “what’s the big deal about this? I don’t care what happens in the background, as long as it works…”.
In case you’re tempted to think along those lines, may we kindly suggest you discuss this with those guys doing daily troubleshooting in your organization’s desktop (or VoIP ;-)) networks? Alternatively those guys responsible for systems connected to some “layer 3 concentrator device” over slow links will give you a big smile when informing them about this (default) behavior. Not to forget those old guys who have painfully learned to (mis-) trust the correct processing of ICMP redirects by various flavors of operating systems in the past…

Turns out that just clearing the prefix information from the router advertisements did not produce the desired result which still is “we just want the DHCPv6 network to have the same properties/behavior to what we did before with DHCPv4”.
Fortunately there’s another tweak that can be performed. Looking carefully at RFC 4861 Neighbor Discovery for IP version 6 (IPv6) we realize that the actual generation of a SLAAC address is only performed once the “autonomous address configuration” (in short: “A-flag”) is set, within the prefix information option (PIO). If we can send router advertisements including PIO with the A-flag cleared, but the on-link flag left intact, we might be able to trick the receiving node into acting like this: “well, the router just informed me there’s a local prefix. I’m not supposed to use this info for generating an address but I still learned that this prefix [which co-incidentally is the same as the DHCPv6 prefix…] is on-link, that is a network with neighbors”.

On Cisco this can be configured by the following command (note that we remove the previously configured approach first):

Router(config)#int vlan100
Router(config-if)#no ipv6 nd prefix 2001:DB8:6:6::/64 no-advertise
Router(config-if)#ipv6 nd prefix 2001:db8:6:6::/64 2592000 86400 no-autoconfig

[for the moment I leave it up to the reader to figure the details of the above approach from the command reference].

The relevant part of the router advertisement now looks like this:




Performing another ping from Alice to Bob and looking at the network packets gives this picture:



So we’ve finally managed to reach a setting where DHCPv6 provisioned notes behave the same way as their DHCPv4 couterparts. However, to do so we had to gain a detailed understanding of the intricacies of DHCPv6 and to perform some fine-tuning on the L3 infrastructure. I’d like to point out two main take-aways for the moment:

– DHCPv6 is very different from DHCPv4 (which can be applied to the relationship between IPv6 and IPv4, too ;-)).
– if you strive to employ DHCPv6 in an operations model similar to DHCPv4 you have to perform some tweaking on the routers serving the respective nodes’ segments. And, of course, these routers must support the relevant configuration knobs. If they don’t, be very careful. Else your network might exhibit a somewhat unexpected behavior and those guys responsible for operations & troubleshooting those segments will not be happy about that…

There might be a third part of this series discussing pros & cons of DHCPv6 flavors in different enterprise settings. In any case I will give a talk on “Operating DHCPv6 in a Secure & Reliable Way” at the Troopers 2015 IPv6 Security Summit.
For today, I wish everybody a great weekend and thanks! for reading



  1. Enno,

    Nice series. One other thing that may be worth explicitly pointing out is that DHCPv6 does not supply the default gateway (versus DHCPv4). So the local router and DHCPv6 server must work in tandem (and be coordinated!). The other gotcha I know you’ve run into is DHCPv6 using the DUID versus MAC and all the fun this brings – especially if you want to log the MAC address! Also, DHCPv6 introduces a server reconfigure option where it can tell clients to immediately make changes. However this requires authentication and I don’t believe either option is currently supported in any popular solutions.


    1. Jim,

      thanks for the feedback. Yes, DHCPv6 not being able to supply the default route is another major difference (causing quite some annoyance in enterprise space).
      As for the DUID vs. MAC thing: at least in relay scenarios this is meant to be addressed in the future by RFC 6939. Once all involved components support it (to the best of my knowledge, currently only ISC DHCP v4.x does) this should be solved. Furthermore agreed as for the (non-) support of DHCP auth (as of RFC 1918) by pretty much all solutions.

    1. Hi Antonios,

      draft-ietf-mif-dhcpv6-route-option expired 18 months ago and to the best of my knowledge there hasn’t been a “successor” or similar effort since then, in none of the IETF working groups.
      It was probably the last of a series of fruitless attempts to bring a route option within DHCPv6 to life, so that ship seems to have sailed. That topic has been one of the most religious fights in the IPv6 world (which is full of such fights anyway).
      The main reason for non-adoption is, from my perspective, that the majority of the IETF community (mainly consisting of vendors and carrier people, so “main DHCP users = enterprise space” is strongly under-represented) considered RAs as sufficient (in particular given standards track RFC 6106) and did not recognize a need for “enhancing DHCPv6”. That’s my impression, I do _not_ take a position here.

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