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perfdhcp - Man Page

DHCP benchmarking tool


perfdhcp [-1] [-4 | -6] [-A encapsulation-level] [-b base] [-B] [-c] [-C separator] [-d drop-time] [-D max-drop] [-e lease-type] [-E time-offset] [-f renew-rate] [-F release-rate] [-g thread-mode] [-h] [-i] [-I ip-offset] [-J remote-address-list-file] [-l local-address|interface] [-L local-port] [-M mac-list-file] [-n num-request] [-N remote-port] [-O random-offset] [-o code,hexstring] [--or encapsulation-level:code,hexstring] [-p test-period] [-P preload] [-r rate] [-R num-clients] [-s seed] [-S srvid-offset] [--scenario name] [-t report] [-T template-file] [-u] [-v] [-W exit-wait-time] [-w script_name] [-x diagnostic-selector] [-X xid-offset] [server]


perfdhcp is a DHCP benchmarking tool. It provides a way to measure the performance of DHCP servers by generating large amounts of traffic from multiple simulated clients. It is able to test both IPv4 and IPv6 servers, and provides statistics concerning response times and the number of requests that are dropped.

The tool supports two different scenarios, which offer certain behaviors to be tested. By default (the basic scenario), tests are run using the full four-packet exchange sequence (DORA for DHCPv4, SARR for DHCPv6). An option is provided to run tests using the initial two-packet exchange (DO and SA) instead. It is also possible to configure perfdhcp to send DHCPv6 RENEW and RELEASE messages at a specified rate, in parallel with the DHCPv6 four-way exchanges. By default, if there is no response received with one second, a response is considered lost and perfdhcp continues with other transactions.

A second scenario, called avalanche, is selected via --scenario avalanche. It first sends the number of Discovery or Solicit messages specified by the -R option; then a retransmission (with an exponential back-off mechanism) is used for each simulated client, until all requests are answered. It generates a report when all clients receive their addresses, or when it is manually stopped. This scenario attempts to replicate a case where the server is not able to handle the traffic swiftly enough. Real clients will assume the packet or response was lost and will retransmit, further increasing DHCP traffic. This is sometimes called an avalanche effect, thus the scenario name. Option -p is ignored in the avalanche scenario.

When running a performance test, perfdhcp exchanges packets with the server under test as quickly as possible, unless the -r parameter is used to limit the request rate. The length of the test can be limited by setting a threshold on any or all of the number of requests made by perfdhcp, the elapsed time, or the number of requests dropped by the server.


To allow the contents of packets sent to the server to be customized, perfdhcp allows the specification of template files that determine the contents of the packets. For example, the customized packet may contain a DHCPv6 ORO to request a set of options to be returned by the server, or it may contain the Client FQDN option to request that the server perform DNS updates. This may be used to discover performance bottlenecks for different server configurations (e.g. DDNS enabled or disabled).

Up to two template files can be specified on the command line, with each file representing the contents of a particular type of packet, and the type being determined by the test being carried out. For example, if testing DHCPv6:

(A similar determination applies to DHCPv4's DHCPDISCOVER and DHCPREQUEST packets.)

The template file holds the DHCP packet, represented as a stream of ASCII hexadecimal digits; it excludes any IP/UDP stack headers. The template file must not contain any characters other than hexadecimal digits and spaces. Spaces are discarded when the template file is parsed; in the file, 12B4 is the same as 12 B4, which is the same as 1 2 B 4.

The template files should be used in conjunction with the command-line parameters which specify offsets of the data fields being modified in outbound packets. For example, the -E time-offset switch specifies the offset of the DHCPv6 Elapsed Time option in the packet template. If the offset is specified, perfdhcp injects the current elapsed-time value into this field before sending the packet to the server.

In many scenarios, perfdhcp needs to simulate multiple clients, each having a unique client identifier. Since packets for each client are generated from the same template file, it is necessary to randomize the client identifier (or HW address in DHCPv4) in the packet created from it. The -O random-offset option allows specification of the offset in the template where randomization should be performed. It is important to note that this offset points to the end (not the beginning) of the client identifier (or HW address field). The number of bytes being randomized depends on the number of simulated clients. If the number of simulated clients is between 1 and 255, only one byte (to which the randomization offset points) is randomized. If the number of simulated clients is between 256 and 65535, two bytes are randomized. Note that the last two bytes of the client identifier are randomized in this case: the byte which the randomization offset parameter points to, and the one which precedes it (random-offset - 1). If the number of simulated clients exceeds 65535, three bytes are randomized, and so on.

perfdhcp can simulate traffic from multiple subnets by enabling option -J and passing a path to a file that contains v4 or v6 addresses to be used as relays in generated messages. That enables testing of vast numbers of Kea shared networks. While testing DHCPv4, Kea should be started with the KEA_TEST_SEND_RESPONSES_TO_SOURCE environment variable, to force Kea to send generated messages to the source address of the incoming packet.

Templates may currently be used to generate packets being sent to the server in 4-way exchanges, i.e. Solicit, Request (DHCPv6) and DHCPDISCOVER, DHCPREQUEST (DHCPv4). They cannot be used when Renew or DHCPRELEASE packets are being sent.



Takes the server-id option from the first received message.


Establishes DHCPv4 operation; this is the default. It is incompatible with the -6 option.


Establishes DHCPv6 operation. It is incompatible with the -4 option.

-b basetype=value

Indicates the base MAC or DUID used to simulate different clients. The basetype may be "mac" or "duid". (The keyword "ether" may alternatively used for MAC.) The -b option can be specified multiple times. The MAC address must consist of six octets separated by single (:) or double (::) colons; for example: mac=00:0c:01:02:03:04. The DUID value is a hexadecimal string; it must be at least six octets long and not longer than 64 bytes, and the length must be less than 128 hexadecimal digits. For example: duid=0101010101010101010110111F14.

-d drop-time

Specifies the time after which a request is treated as having been lost. The value is given in seconds and may contain a fractional component. The default is 1.

-e lease-type

Specifies the type of lease being requested from the server. It may be one of the following:


Only regular addresses (v4 or v6) are requested.


Only IPv6 prefixes are requested.


Both IPv6 addresses and prefixes are requested.

The -e prefix-only and -e address-and-prefix forms may not be used with the -4 option.

-F release-rate

Specifies the rate at which DHCPv4 DHCPRELEASE or DHCPv6 Release requests are sent to a server. This value is only valid when used in conjunction with the exchange rate (given by -r rate). Furthermore, the sum of this value and the renew-rate (given by -f rate) must be equal to or less than the exchange rate value.

-f renew-rate

Specifies the rate at which DHCPv4 DHCPREQUEST or DHCPv6 Renew requests are sent to a server. This value is only valid when used in conjunction with the exchange rate (given by -r rate). Furthermore, the sum of this value and the release-rate (given by -F rate) must be equal to or less than the exchange rate.

-g thread-mode

Allows selection of thread-mode, which can be either single or multi. In multi-thread mode, packets are received in a separate thread, which allows better utilisation of CPUs. In a single-CPU system it is better to run in one thread, to avoid threads blocking each other. If more than one CPU is present in the system, multi-thread mode is the default; otherwise single-thread is the default.


Prints help and exits.


Performs only the initial part of the exchange: DISCOVER-OFFER if -4 is selected, Solicit-Advertise if -6 is chosen.

-i is incompatible with the following options: -1, -d, -D, -E, -S, -I and -F. In addition, it cannot be used with multiple instances of -O, -T, and -X.

-J remote-address-list-file

Specifies a text file that includes multiple addresses, and is designed to test shared networks. If provided, perfdhcp randomly chooses one of the addresses for each exchange, to generate traffic from multiple subnets. When testing DHCPv4, it should be started with the KEA_TEST_SEND_RESPONSES_TO_SOURCE=ENABLE environment variable; otherwise, perfdhcp will not be able to receive responses.

-l local-addr|interface

For DHCPv4 operation, specifies the local hostname/address to use when communicating with the server. By default, the interface address through which traffic would normally be routed to the server is used. For DHCPv6 operation, specifies the name of the network interface through which exchanges are initiated.

-L local-port

Specifies the local port to use. This must be zero or a positive integer up to 65535. A value of 0 (the default) allows perfdhcp to choose its own port.

-M mac-list-file

Specifies a text file containing a list of MAC addresses, one per line. If provided, a MAC address is chosen randomly from this list for every new exchange. In DHCPv6, MAC addresses are used to generate DUID-LLs. This parameter must not be used in conjunction with the -b parameter.

-N remote-port

Specifies the remote port to use. This must be zero or a positive integer up to 65535. A value of 0 (the default) allows perfdhcp to choose the standard service port.

-o code,hexstring

Forces perfdhcp to insert the specified extra option (or options if used multiple times) into packets being transmitted. The code specifies the option code, and the hexstring is a hexadecimal string that defines the content of the option. Care should be taken, as perfdhcp does not offer any kind of logic behind the options; they are simply inserted into packets and sent as is. Be careful not to duplicate options that are already inserted. For example, to insert the client-class identifier (option code 60) with the string "docsis", use -o 60,646f63736973. The -o may be used multiple times. The protocol family (-4 or -6) must be specified before using -o.

-P preload

Initiates preload exchanges back-to-back at startup. Must be 0 (the default) or a positive integer.

-r rate

Initiates the rate of DORA/SARR (or if -i is given, DO/SA) exchanges per second. A periodic report is generated showing the number of exchanges which were not completed, as well as the average response latency. The program continues until interrupted, at which point a final report is generated.

-R num-clients

Specifies how many different clients are used. With a value of 1 (the default), all requests appear to come from the same client. Must be a positive number.

-s seed

Specifies the seed for randomization, making runs of perfdhcp repeatable. This must be 0 or a positive integer. The value 0 means that a seed is not used; this is the default.

--scenario name

Specifies the type of scenario, and can be basic (the default) or avalanche.

-T template-file

Specifies a file containing the template to use as a stream of hexadecimal digits. This may be specified up to two times and controls the contents of the packets sent (see the "Templates" section above).


Enables checks for address uniqueness. The lease valid-lifetime should not be shorter than the test duration, and clients should not request an address more than once without releasing it.


Displays the Kea version.


Displays the extended Kea version.

-W exit-wait-time

Specifies the exit-wait-time parameter, which causes perfdhcp to wait for a certain amount of time after an exit condition has been met, to receive all packets without sending any new packets. Expressed in microseconds. If not specified, 0 is used (i.e. exit immediately after exit conditions are met).

-w script_name

Specifies the name of the script to be run before/after perfdhcp. When called, the script is passed a single parameter, either "start" or "stop", indicating whether it is being called before or after perfdhcp.

-x diagnostic-selector

Includes extended diagnostics in the output. This is a string of single keywords specifying the operations for which verbose output is desired. The selector key letters are:


Prints the decoded command-line arguments.


Prints the exit reason.


Prints the rate-processing details.


Prints the received leases.


Prints the first server ID.


When finished, prints timers of all successful exchanges.


When finished, prints templates.

-Y seconds

Time in seconds after which perfdhcp starts simulating the client waiting longer for server responses. This increases the secs field in DHCPv4 and sends increased values in the Elapsed Time option in DHCPv6. Must be used with -y.

-y seconds

Time in seconds during which perfdhcp simulates the client waiting longer for server responses. This increases the secs field in DHCPv4 and sends increased values in the Elapsed Time option in DHCPv6. Must be used with -Y.

Dhcpv4-Only Options

The following options only apply for DHCPv4 (i.e. when -4 is given).


Forces broadcast handling.

Dhcpv6-Only Options

The following options only apply for DHCPv6 (i.e. when -6 is given).


Adds a rapid-commit option (exchanges are Solicit-Advertise).

-A encapsulation-level

Specifies that relayed traffic must be generated. The argument specifies the level of encapsulation, i.e. how many relay agents are simulated. Currently the only supported encapsulation-level value is 1, which means that the generated traffic is equivalent to the amount of traffic passing through a single relay agent.

--or encapsulation-level:code,hexstring

Forces perfdhcp to insert the specified extra option (or options if used multiple times) into a relayed DHCPv6 message at the given level of encapsulation; currently, the only supported encapsulation-level value is 1. This option is very similar to -o: the code specifies the option code, and the hexstring is a hexadecimal string that defines the content of the option. Care should be taken, as perfdhcp does not offer any kind of logic behind the options; they are simply inserted into packets and sent as is. encapsulation-level: is optional; if it is omitted, the default encapsulation-level value 1 is used. For example, to insert the Subscriber identifier (option code 38) with a value 1234 at the first level of encapsulation, use --or 38,31323334 or --or 1:38,31323334. The --or may be used multiple times, and it must be used in conjunction with -A.

Options Controlling a Test

-D max-drop

Aborts the test immediately if "max-drop" requests have been dropped. Use -D 1 to abort if even a single request has been dropped. "max-drop" must be a positive integer. If "max-drop" includes the suffix %, it specifies the maximum percentage of requests that may be dropped before aborting. In this case, testing of the threshold begins after 10 requests are expected to have been received.

-n num-requests

Initiates "num-request" transactions. No report is generated until all transactions have been initiated/waited-for, after which a report is generated and the program terminates.

-p test-period

Sends requests for "test-period", which is specified in the same manner as -d. This can be used as an alternative to -n, or both options can be given, in which case the testing is completed when either limit is reached.

-t interval

Sets the delay (in seconds) between two successive reports.

-C separator

Suppresses the preliminary output and causes the interim data to only contain the values delimited by separator. Used in conjunction with -t to produce easily parsable reports at -t intervals.



Indicates the server to test, specified as an IP address. In the DHCPv6 case, the special name all can be used to refer to All_DHCP_Relay_Agents_and_Servers (the multicast address FF02::1:2), or the special name servers to refer to All_DHCP_Servers (the multicast address FF05::1:3). The server is mandatory except where the -l option is given to specify an interface, in which case it defaults to all.


perfdhcp can report the following errors in the packet exchange:


A message was received that was too short.


A message was received which does not match one sent to the server (i.e. it is a duplicate message, a message that has arrived after an excessive delay, or one that is just not recognized).


Local system limits have been reached when sending a message.

Exit Status

perfdhcp exits with one of the following status codes:




General error.


Error in command-line arguments.


No general failures in operation, but one or more exchanges were unsuccessful.

Usage Examples

Here is an example that simulates regular DHCPv4 traffic of 100 DHCPv4 devices (-R 100), 10 packets per second (-r 10), shows the query/response rate details (-xi), shows a report every 2 seconds (-t 2), and sends the packets to the IP

sudo perfdhcp -xi -t 2 -r 10 -R 100

Here's a similar case, but for DHCPv6. Note that the DHCPv6 protocol uses link-local addresses, so the interface (eth0 in this example) must be specified on which to send the traffic. all is a convenience alias for All_DHCP_Relay_Agents_and_Servers (the multicast address FF02::1:2). It is also possible to use the servers alias to refer to All_DHCP_Servers (the multicast address FF05::1:3). The default is all.

sudo perfdhcp -6 -xi -t 1 -r 1 -R 10 -l eth0 all

The following examples simulate normal DHCPv4 and DHCPv6 traffic that, after 3 seconds, starts pretending not to receive any responses from the server for 10 seconds. The DHCPv4 protocol signals this by an increased secs field, while DHCPv6 uses the Elapsed Time option. In real networks, this indicates that clients are not getting responses in a timely matter. This can be used to simulate some HA scenarios, as Kea uses the secs field and Elapsed Time option value as one of the indicators that the HA partner is not responding. When enabled with -y and -Y, the secs and Elapsed Time values increase steadily.

sudo perfdhcp -xi -t 1 -r 1 -y 10 -Y 3

sudo perfdhcp -6 -xi -t 1 -r 1 -y 10 -Y 3 2001:db8::1


Kea comes with an extensive Kea Administrator Reference Manual that covers all aspects of running the Kea software - compilation, installation, configuration, configuration examples, and much more. Kea also features a Kea Messages Manual, which lists all possible messages Kea can print with a brief description for each of them. Both documents are available in various formats (.txt, .html, .pdf) with the Kea distribution. The Kea documentation is available at https://kea.readthedocs.io.

Kea source code is documented in the Kea Developer's Guide, available at https://reports.kea.isc.org/dev_guide/.

The Kea project website is available at https://kea.isc.org.

Mailing Lists and Support

There are two public mailing lists available for the Kea project. kea-users (kea-users at lists.isc.org) is intended for Kea users, while kea-dev (kea-dev at lists.isc.org) is intended for Kea developers, prospective contributors, and other advanced users. Both lists are available at https://lists.isc.org. The community provides best-effort support on both of those lists.

ISC provides professional support for Kea services. See https://www.isc.org/kea/ for details.


The perfdhcp tool was initially coded in October 2011 by John DuBois, Francis Dupont, and Marcin Siodelski of ISC. Kea 1.0.0, which included perfdhcp, was released in December 2015.

See Also

kea-dhcp4(8), kea-dhcp6(8), kea-dhcp-ddns(8), kea-ctrl-agent(8), kea-admin(8), kea-netconf(8), keactrl(8), kea-lfc(8), Kea Administrator Reference Manual.


Internet Systems Consortium

Referenced By

kea-admin(8), keactrl(8), kea-ctrl-agent(8), kea-dhcp4(8), kea-dhcp6(8), kea-dhcp-ddns(8), kea-lfc(8), kea-shell(8).

Jun 25, 2024 2.6.0 Kea