Modern Open Source DHCPv4 & DHCPv6 Server

kea-imageonly-250Kea is ISC’s new open source DHCPv4 and DHCPv6 server.

Kea runs on Linux, BSD, and MacOS.  We are proud of Kea’s comprehensive Developer and Administrator documentation.

ISC offers commercial 7 x 24 support for Kea, as well as consulting and contract development to assist in implementing Kea, including migration from ISC DHCP.

Kea is designed to be easily extensible through an applications API. This API can be called at multiple places during the DHCP processing, to consult or update enterprise provisioning systems, for example. Kea DHCP leases may be stored in a memory file database, or in a MySQL or Postgres database.

The Kea distribution does not yet include a DHCP client or relay, but because both are standards-based, the ISC DHCP client works fine with the Kea DHCP server.  Kea is under active development. In 2017 we are adding a remote management capability, (this work is sponsored by Mozilla, through a Mozilla Open Source award). If you are interested in using Kea, we highly recommend joining the Kea-users mailing list, where users share challenges and successes and answer each others’ questions.



Broad, standards-compliant support for both DHCPv4 and DHCPv6 protocols

  • Direct address assignment or DHCPv6 prefix delegation
  • Dynamic DNS for updating DNS records as leases are renewed or expired
  • Dynamic IP addressing for most clients and static host reservations, for servers and printers
  • Tracking of MAC addresses, even in DHCPv6
  • Most DHCPv4 and v6 options, or easily add your own

Kea Hooks Integrate with Your Other Systems

  • Using Hooks, it is possible to control the assignment of options and even addresses from your own provisioning system
  • Hook points include: packet received, subnet selected, lease renewed, lease released, ready to respond (different hook points for DHCPv4 and DHCPv6)
  • Hooks allow the developer to edit information such as the lease parameters (time to renew), the subnet, address or options to be delivered
  • The Kea distribution includes a sample hooks application that can retrieve per-user information from an external file (such as options)
  • We have a recorded presentation on writing a Hooks application, given by one of our software engineers.
  • For an example of how this can be used, see the FaceBook Kea Application
  • If this sounds like too much – ask us if we can do it for you!

Premium Features

We are building a library of commercially-licensed hooks applications to help support Kea development. These are included with any Kea support subscription. These are distributed as a source package, but with an End User License Agreement that prohibits redistribution.

  • Our Forensic Logging application works with Kea 1.1 and later versions and creates a separate log for law enforcement requirements.
  • The Flexible Identifier library is supported on Kea 1.2 and later and enables use of almost any available parameter as the identifier for host reservations.

Weighing your options

Feature SupportKea ServerISC DHCP Server
DHCPv4 or DHCPv6 server✔✔
Delegate lease allocation to external database✔
Uninterrupted service – online reconfigurationno restart unless physical interfaces changesome changes can be made using OMAPI without restart
DHCP FailoverDB failover coming in Kea 1.4DHCPv4 failover only
Management interfacesRESTful/http interface using JSON commands in Kea 1.2OMAPI (command-line tool using customer syntax)
IntegrationsDocumented, supported ‘hooks’ apiCommunity-contributed LDAP integration (unsupported)
Lease DatabasePostgreSQL, MySQL or memfile. Experimental Cassandra support in Kea 1.1Local text file
DHCPv6 Prefix Delegation✔✔
Client classification✔✔
Dynamic DNS updating (DDNS)✔✔
Option Assignment Determined byGlobal, Subnet, Host
Or specify via hooks application
Global, Shared Network, Subnet, Class, Pool, Host
Host Reservation✔✔
Retrieve Host Reservations from external databasePostgreSQL, MySQL in Kea 1.1
StatisticsExtensive, documented statisticsLogging on passing thresholds
DocumentationDeveloper documentation, Administrative Reference embedded ‘man pages’
Operating System SupportRedHat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, Fedora and FreeBSD
Builds on: most Linux and BSD variants, including MacOSX
Linux and Unix variants, Solaris, HP/UX & AIX with a single network interface
Bug Databasepublic Trac issue databaseprivate, mailto:
Community SupportKea User’s mailing listDHCP-users mailing list
Professional 7 x 24 Support from ISC✔✔

Advice for ISC DHCP Users

You may be wondering whether we recommend you migrate from ISC DHCP to Kea at this time.

  • Use Kea if you need higher performance
  • Use Kea if you are modernizing your infrastructure
  • Use Kea if you want a stateless DHCP architecture tied to your own provisioning system for device-specific information
  • Use Kea for your DHCP server needs

If Kea is missing a minor feature you need

  • Consider requesting a custom-developed hooks application
  • Kea hooks can do everything from re-writing options in the packet to triggering external applications

Continue to use ISC DHCP if

  • You need DHCPv4 failover (note that HA implementations of Kea are possible today using a HA database back end)
  • If you are using legacy interfaces

Continue using ISC DHCP for client and relay functions


New to Kea? Check out these webinars.




Kea Webinar from our partners, Men and Mice. Men and Mice offer training classes for Kea.

Last modified: April 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm