dhcplb is Facebook's implementation of a load balancer for DHCP.
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pmazzini and facebook-github-bot move vendor option parsing to the library
Summary: use the vendor option parsing from the dhcp library

Reviewed By: insomniacslk

Differential Revision: D13001077

fbshipit-source-id: 5b8d704ea74b27f038de84922eb9e1548a39e388
Latest commit bd81d73 Nov 13, 2018


What is dhcplb?

dhcplb is Facebook's implementation of a DHCP v4/v6 relayer with load balancing capabilities. Facebook currently uses it in production, and it's deployed at global scale across all of our data centers.

Why did you do that?

Facebook uses DHCP to provide network configuration to bare-metal machines at provisioning phase and to assign IPs to out-of-band interfaces.

dhcplb was created because the previous infrastructure surrounding DHCP led to very unbalanced load across the DHCP servers in a region when simply using Anycast+ECMP alone (for example 1 server out of 10 would receive >65% of requests).

Facebook's DHCP infrastructure was presented at SRECon15 Ireland.

Why not use an existing load balancer?

  • All the relayer implementations available on the internet lack the load balancing functionality.
  • Having control of the code gives you the ability to:
    • perform A/B testing on new builds of our DHCP server
    • implement override mechanism
    • implement anything additional you need

How do you use dhcplb at Facebook?

This picture shows how we have deployed dhcplb in our production infrastructure:

DHCPLB deployed at Facebook

TORs (Top of Rack switch) at Facebook run DHCP relayers, these relayers are responsible for relaying broadcast DHCP traffic (DISCOVERY and SOLICIT messages) originating within their racks to anycast VIPs, one DHCPv4 and one for DHCPv6.

In a Cisco switch the configuration would look like this:

ip helper-address
ipv6 dhcp relay destination 2401:db00:eef0:a67::

We have a bunch of dhcplb Tupperware instances in every region listening on those VIPs. They are responsible for received traffic relayed by TORs agents and load balancing them amongst the actual KEA dhcp servers distributed across clusters in that same region.

The configuration for dhcplb consists of 3 files:

  • json config file: contains the main configuration for the server as explained in the Getting Started section
  • host lists file: contains a list of dhcp servers, one per line, those are the servers dhcplb will try to balance on
  • overrides file: a file containing per mac overrides. See the Getting Started section.

What does it support?

dhcplb is an implementation of a DHCP relay agent, (mostly) implementing the following RFCs:

Note that currently dhcplb does not support relaying broadcasted DHCPv4 DISCOVERY packets or DHCPv6 SOLICIT packets sent to ff02::1:2 multicast address. We don't need this in our production environment but adding that support should be trivial though. PR are welcome!

How does it work?

When operating in v4 mode dhcplb will relay relayed messages coming from other relayers (in our production network those are rack switches), the response from dhcp servers will be relayed back to the rack switches:

dhcp client <---> rsw relayer ---> dhcplb ---> dhcp server
                      ^                             |
                      |                             |

In DHCPv6 mode dhcplb will operate normally, responses by the dhcp server will traverse the load balancer.


dhcplb relies on the following libraries that you can get using the go get command:

$ go get github.com/fsnotify/fsnotify
$ go get github.com/golang/glog
$ go get github.com/facebookgo/ensure
$ go get github.com/hashicorp/golang-lru
$ go get github.com/insomniacslk/dhcp/dhcpv4
$ go get github.com/insomniacslk/dhcp/dhcpv6
$ go get golang.org/x/time/rate
$ go get github.com/mdlayher/eui64


To install dhcplb in your $GOPATH simply run:

$ go get github.com/facebookincubator/dhcplb

This will fetch the source code and write it into $GOPATH/src/github.com/facebookincubator/dhcplb, compile the binary and put it in $GOPATH/bin/dhcplb.


If you wish to clone the repo you can do the following:

$ mkdir -p $GOPATH/src/github.com/facebookincubator
$ cd $_
$ git clone https://github.com/facebookincubator/dhcplb
$ go install github.com/facebookincubator/dhcplb

Run unit tests

You can run tests with:

$ cd $GOPATH/src/github.com/facebookincubator/dhcplb/lib
$ go test

Getting Started and extending dhcplb

dhcplb can be run out of the box after compilation.

To start immediately, you can run sudo dhcplb -config config.json -version 6. That will start the server in v6 mode using the default configuration.

Should you need to integrate dhcplb with your infrastructure please see Getting Started.

Virtual lab for development and testing

You can bring up a virtual lab using vagrant. This will replicate our production environment, you can spawn VMs containing various components like:

  • N instances of ISC dhcpd
  • An instance of dhcplb
  • An instance of dhcrelay, simulating a top of rack switch.
  • a VM where you can run dhclient or ISC perfdhcp

All of that is managed by vagrant and chef-solo cookbooks. You can use this lab to test your dhcplb changes. For more information have a look at the vagrant directory.

TODOs / future improvements

TODOs and improvements are tracked here

PRs are welcome!

Who wrote it?

dhcplb started in April 2016 during a 3 days hackathon in the Facebook Dublin office, the hackathon project proved the feasibility of the tool. In June we were joined by Vinnie Magro (@vmagro) for a 3 months internship in which he worked with two production engineers on turning the hack into a production ready system. dhcplb has been deployed globally and currently balances all production DHCP traffic efficiently across our KEA DHCP servers.

Original Hackathon project members:

  • Angelo Failla (@pallotron), Production Engineer
  • Roman Gushchin (@rgushchin), Production Engineer
  • Mateusz Kaczanowski (@mkaczanowski), Production Engineer
  • Jake Bunce, Network Engineer

Internship project members:

  • Vinnie Magro (@vmagro), Production Engineer intern
  • Angelo Failla (@pallotron), Intern mentor, Production Engineer
  • Mateusz Kaczanowski (@mkaczanowski), Production Engineer

Other contributors:

  • Emre Cantimur, Production Engineer, Facebook, Throttling support


BSD License. See the LICENSE file.