11. Lease Expiration

The primary role of the DHCP server is to assign addresses and/or delegate prefixes to DHCP clients. These addresses and prefixes are often referred to as "leases." Leases are typically assigned to clients for a finite amount of time, known as the "valid lifetime." DHCP clients who wish to continue using their assigned leases periodically renew them by sending the appropriate message to the DHCP server. The DHCP server records the time when these leases are renewed and calculates new expiration times for them.

If the client does not renew a lease before its valid lifetime elapses, the lease is considered expired. There are many situations when the client may cease lease renewals; common scenarios include when the machine running the client shuts down for an extended period of time, or when a mobile device leaves the vicinity of a network.

The process through which the DHCP server makes expired leases available for reassignment is referred to as "lease reclamation," and expired leases returned to availability through this process are referred to as "reclaimed." The DHCP server attempts to reclaim an expired lease as soon as it detects that it has expired. The server has several possible ways to detect expiration: it may attempt to allocate a lease to a client but find this lease already present in the database and expired; or it can periodically query the lease database for expired leases. Regardless of how an expired lease is detected, it must be reclaimed before it can be assigned to a client.

This chapter explains how to configure the server to periodically query for the expired leases, and how to minimize the impact of the periodic lease-reclamation process on the server's responsiveness. Finally, it explains "lease affinity," which provides the means to assign the same lease to a returning client after its lease has expired.

Although all configuration examples in this section are provided for the DHCPv4 server, the same parameters may be used for DHCPv6 server configuration.

11.1. Lease Reclamation

Lease reclamation is the process through which an expired lease becomes available for assignment to the same or a different client. This process involves the following steps for each reclaimed lease:

  • Invoke callouts for the lease4_expire or lease6_expire hook points, if hook libraries supporting those callouts are currently loaded.
  • Update the DNS, i.e. remove any DNS entries associated with the expired lease.
  • Update lease information in the lease database to indicate that the lease is now available for reassignment.
  • Update counters on the server, a process that includes increasing the number of reclaimed leases and decreasing the number of assigned addresses or delegated prefixes.

Please refer to The DHCP-DDNS Server to see how to configure DNS updates in Kea, and to Hook Libraries for information about using hook libraries.

11.2. Lease Reclamation Configuration Parameters

The following list presents all the configuration parameters pertaining to processing expired leases, with their default values:

  • reclaim-timer-wait-time - this parameter governs intervals between the completion of the previous reclamation cycle and the start of the next one. Specified in seconds; the default value is 10.
  • flush-reclaimed-timer-wait-time - this parameter controls how often the server initiates the lease reclamation procedure. Expressed in seconds; the default value is 25. If both flush-reclaimed-timer-wait-time and hold-reclaimed-time are not 0, when the client sends a release message the lease is expired instead of being deleted from lease storage.
  • hold-reclaimed-time - this parameter governs how long the lease should be kept after it is reclaimed. This enables lease affinity when set to a non-zero value. Expressed in seconds; the default value is 3600. If both flush-reclaimed-timer-wait-time and hold-reclaimed-time are not 0, when the client sends a release message the lease is expired instead of being deleted from lease storage.
  • max-reclaim-leases - this parameter specifies the maximum number of reclaimed leases that can be processed at one time. Zero means unlimited (i.e. process all reclaimed leases). The default value is 100.
  • max-reclaim-time - this parameter specifies an upper limit to the length of time a lease reclamation procedure can take. Zero means no time limit. Expressed in milliseconds; the default value is 250.
  • unwarned-reclaim-cycles - if lease reclamation limits are specified (max-reclaim-leases and/or max-reclaim-time), then under certain circumstances the server may not be able to deal with the leases to be reclaimed fast enough. This parameter specifies how many consecutive clean-up cycles must end with remaining leases to be processed before a warning is printed. The default is 5 cycles.

The parameters are explained in more detail in the rest of this chapter.

The default value for any parameter is used when the parameter is not explicitly specified in the configuration. If the expired-leases-processing map is omitted entirely in the configuration, the default values are used for all parameters listed above.

11.3. Configuring Lease Reclamation

Kea can be configured to periodically detect and reclaim expired leases. During this process the lease entries in the database are modified or removed. While this is happening the server does not process incoming DHCP messages, to avoid issues with concurrent access to database information. As a result, the server is unresponsive while lease reclamation is performed and DHCP queries will accumulate; responses will be sent once the lease-reclamation cycle is complete.

In deployments where response time is critical, administrators may wish to minimize the interruptions in service caused by lease reclamation. To this end, Kea provides configuration parameters to control the frequency of lease reclamation cycles, the maximum number of leases processed in a single reclamation cycle, and the maximum amount of time a single reclamation cycle is allowed to run before being interrupted. The following examples demonstrate how these parameters can be used:

  "Dhcp4": {
    "expired-leases-processing": {
        "reclaim-timer-wait-time": 5,
        "max-reclaim-leases": 0,
        "max-reclaim-time": 0

The first parameter is expressed in seconds and specifies an interval between the two consecutive lease reclamation cycles. This is explained by the following diagram:

|  c1  |            | c2 |            |c3|            | c4 |
|      |     5s     |    |     5s     |  |     5s     |    | time

This diagram shows four lease-reclamation cycles (c1 through c4) of variable duration. The duration of the reclamation cycle depends on the number of expired leases detected and processed in a particular cycle. This duration is usually significantly shorter than the interval between the cycles.

According to the reclaim-timer-wait-time, the server keeps fixed intervals of five seconds between the end of one cycle and the start of the next cycle. This guarantees the presence of 5-second-long periods during which the server remains responsive to DHCP queries and does not perform lease reclamation. The max-reclaim-leases and max-reclaim-time are set to 0, which sets no restriction on the maximum number of leases reclaimed in the particular cycle, or on the maximum duration of each cycle.

In deployments with high lease-pool utilization, relatively short valid lifetimes, and frequently disconnecting clients which allow leases to expire, the number of expired leases requiring reclamation at any given time may rise significantly. In this case, it is often desirable to apply restrictions to the maximum duration of a reclamation cycle or the maximum number of leases reclaimed in a cycle. The following configuration demonstrates how this can be done:

  "Dhcp4": {
    "expired-leases-processing": {
        "reclaim-timer-wait-time": 3,
        "max-reclaim-leases": 100,
        "max-reclaim-time": 50,
        "unwarned-reclaim-cycles": 10

In this example, the max-reclaim-leases parameter limits the number of leases reclaimed in a single cycle to 100, and the max-reclaim-time limits the maximum duration of each cycle to 50ms. The lease-reclamation cycle will be interrupted if either of these limitations is reached. The reclamation of any unreclaimed leases will be attempted in subsequent cycles.

The following diagram illustrates the behavior of the system in the presence of many expired leases, when the limits are applied for the reclamation cycles:

| c1 |                | c2 |                | c3 |                | c4 |
|50ms|       3s       |50ms|       3s       |50ms|       3s       |50ms|  time

In this case, if any reclamation cycle takes more than 50ms, it is interrupted according to the value of the max-reclaim-time. This results in equal durations of all reclamation cycles over time. In this example, the limitation of the maximum 100 leases is not reached. This may be the case when database transactions or callouts in the hook libraries attached to the server are slow. Regardless, the chosen values for either the maximum number of leases or a maximum cycle time strongly depend on the particular deployment, the lease database backend being used, any hook libraries, etc. Administrators may need to experiment to tune the system to suit the dynamics of their deployment.

It is important to realize that with the use of these limits, there is a risk that expired leases will accumulate faster than the server can reclaim them. This should not be a problem if the server is dealing with a temporary burst of expirations, because it should be able to eventually deal with them over time. However, if leases expire at a high rate for a long period of time, the unreclaimed leases will pile up in the database. To notify the administrator that the current configuration does not satisfy the needs for reclamation of expired leases, the server issues a warning message in the log if it is unable to reclaim all leases within several reclamation cycles. The number of cycles after which such a warning is issued is specified with the unwarned-reclaim-cycles configuration parameter.

Setting the reclaim-timer-wait-time to 0 disables periodic reclamation of the expired leases.

11.4. Configuring Lease Affinity

Suppose that a laptop goes into sleep mode after a period of user inactivity. While the laptop is in sleep mode, its DHCP client does not renew leases obtained from the server and these leases will eventually expire. When the laptop wakes up, it is often desirable for it to continue using its previous assigned IP addresses. To facilitate this, the server needs to correlate returning clients with their expired leases. When the client returns, the server first checks for those leases and reassigns them if they have not been assigned to another client. The ability of the server to reassign the same lease to a returning client is referred to as "lease affinity."

When lease affinity is enabled (i.e. when hold-reclaimed-time is configured to a value greater than zero), the server still reclaims leases according to the parameters described in Configuring Lease Reclamation, but the reclaimed leases are held in the database for a specified amount of time rather than removed. If both flush-reclaimed-timer-wait-time and hold-reclaimed-time are greater than zero, the lease is expired immediately when the client sends a release message, instead of being deleted from lease storage. When the client returns, the server first verifies whether there are any reclaimed leases associated with this client and then reassigns them if possible. However, it is important to note that any reclaimed lease may be assigned to another client if that client specifically asks for it. Therefore, lease affinity does not guarantee that the reclaimed lease will be available for the client who used it before; it merely increases the chances of the client being assigned the same lease. If the lease pool is small - namely, in DHCPv4, for which address space is limited - there is an increased likelihood that the expired lease will be assigned to another client.

Consider the following configuration:

"Dhcp4": {

    "expired-leases-processing": {
        "reclaim-timer-wait-time": 3,
        "hold-reclaimed-time": 1800,
        "flush-reclaimed-timer-wait-time": 5


The hold-reclaim-time specifies how many seconds after an expiration a reclaimed lease should be held in the database for reassignment to the same client. In the example given above, reclaimed leases are held for 30 minutes (1800 seconds) after their expiration. During this time, the server will likely be able to reassign the same lease to the returning client, unless another client specifically requests this lease and the server assigns it.

The server must periodically remove reclaimed leases for which the time indicated by hold-reclaim-time has elapsed. The flush-reclaimed-timer-wait-time parameter controls how often the server removes such leases. In the example provided above, the server initiates removal of such leases five seconds after the previous removal attempt was completed. Setting this value to 0 disables lease affinity, meaning leases are removed from the lease database when they are reclaimed. If lease affinity is enabled, it is recommended that the hold-reclaim-time be set to a value significantly higher than the reclaim-timer-wait-time, as timely removal of expired-reclaimed leases is less critical than the removal process, which may impact server responsiveness.

There is no guarantee that lease affinity will work every time; if a server is running out of addresses, it will reassign expired addresses to new clients. Also, clients can request specific addresses and the server tries to honor such requests if possible. Administrators who want to ensure a client keeps its address, even after periods of inactivity, should consider using host reservations or leases with very long lifetimes.

11.5. Reclaiming Expired Leases via Command

The leases-reclaim command can be used to trigger lease reclamation at any time. Please consult the The leases-reclaim Command section for details about using this command.