2. Quick Start

This section describes the basic steps needed to get Kea up and running. For further details, full customizations, and troubleshooting, see the respective chapters elsewhere in this Kea Administrator Reference Manual (ARM).

2.1. Quick Start Guide Using tarball

  1. Install required runtime and build dependencies. See Build Requirements for details.

  2. Download the Kea source tarball from the ISC.org downloads page or the ISC downloads site.

  3. Extract the tarball. For example:

    $ tar -xvzf kea- 2.3.7.tar.gz
  4. Go into the source directory and run the configure script:

    $ cd kea- 2.3.7
    $ ./configure [your extra parameters]
  5. Build it:

    $ make
  6. Install it (by default it will be placed in /usr/local/, so root privileges are likely required for this step):

    $ make install

2.2. Quick Start Guide Using Native Packages

ISC provides native Alpine, deb, and RPM packages, which make Kea installation much easier. Unless specific compilation options are desired, it is usually easier to install Kea using native packages.

  1. Go to Kea on cloudsmith.io, choose the Kea version, and enter the repository.
  2. Use Set Me Up and follow instructions to add the repository to the local system.


For example, the Debian setup instructions for Kea 2.3 can be found here: https://cloudsmith.io/~isc/repos/kea-2-3/setup/#formats-deb

The dropdown near the top of the page offers instructions for other operating systems.

  1. Update system repositories. For example, on Debian/Ubuntu:

    $ sudo apt update

    On CentOS/Fedora:

    $ sudo yum update

    On Alpine:

    # apk update
  2. Kea is split into various packages. The entire list is available on cloudsmith.io or using apt/yum/dnf. For example, on Debian/Ubuntu:

    $ apt search isc-kea

    On CentOS/Fedora:

    $ yum search isc-kea

    On Alpine:

    $ apk search isc-kea
  3. Install the metapackage containing all of the tools, services, and open source hooks:

    $ sudo apt install isc-kea

    or specific packages:

    $ sudo apt install isc-kea-dhcp6

    or every single Kea-related package, including development headers, debug symbols, and premium hooks (if available):

    $ sudo apt install isc-kea*

    or all packages with a specified version number:

    $ sudo apt install isc-kea*=2.4.0-isc20230531000000


Not all package managers support installing packages with a glob (*), please refer to the specific package manager's manual before attempting this.

  • On CentOS/Fedora systems, replace apt install with yum install.
  • On Alpine systems, replace apt install with apk add.
  1. All installed packages should be now available directly; for example:

    # kea-dhcp6 -c /path/to/your/kea6/config/file.json

    or using systemd:

    # systemctl restart kea-dhcp6

    or using OpenRC on Alpine:

    # service kea-dhcp6 restart


keactrl is not available in packages, as similar functionality is provided by the native systemctl scripts.

  1. On CentOS, Fedora, and Alpine, the service must be enabled at boot time if desired; this is done automatically at package installation time on Debian and Ubuntu systems. For example, with systemd on CentOS/Fedora:

    # systemctl enable kea-dhcp6

    With OpenRC on Alpine:

    # rc-update add kea-dhcp6

2.3. Quick Start Guide for DHCPv4 and DHCPv6 Services

  1. Edit the Kea configuration files, which by default are installed in the [kea-install-dir]/etc/kea/ directory. These are: kea-dhcp4.conf, kea-dhcp6.conf, kea-dhcp-ddns.conf and kea-ctrl-agent.conf, keactrl.conf for DHCPv4 server, DHCPv6 server, D2, Control Agent, and the keactrl script, respectively.

  2. To start the DHCPv4 server in the background, run the following command (as root):

    # keactrl start -s dhcp4

    Or run the following command to start the DHCPv6 server:

    # keactrl start -s dhcp6

    Note that it is also possible to start all servers simultaneously:

    # keactrl start
  3. Verify that the Kea server(s) is/are running:

    # keactrl status

    A server status of "inactive" may indicate a configuration error. Please check the log file (by default named [kea-install-dir]/var/log/kea-dhcp4.log, [kea-install-dir]/var/log/kea-dhcp6.log, [kea-install-dir]/var/log/kea-ddns.log, or [kea-install-dir]/var/log/kea-ctrl-agent.log) for the details of any errors.

  4. If the server has started successfully, test that it is responding to DHCP queries and that the client receives a configuration from the server; for example, use the ISC DHCP client.

  5. To stop running the server(s):

    # keactrl stop

For system-specific instructions, please read the system-specific notes, available in the Kea section of ISC's Knowledgebase.

The details of keactrl script usage can be found in Managing Kea with keactrl.

Once Kea services are up and running, consider deploying a dashboard solution to monitor running services. For more details, see Monitoring Kea With Stork.

2.4. Running the Kea Servers Directly

The Kea servers can be started directly, without the need to use keactrl or systemctl. To start the DHCPv4 server run the following command:

# kea-dhcp4 -c /path/to/your/kea4/config/file.json

Similarly, to start the DHCPv6 server, run the following command:

# kea-dhcp6 -c /path/to/your/kea6/config/file.json