A clever way of doing IP address assignment
One of the little hassles with hardware that can be managed over the network is the bootstrapping problem: it has to somehow get an IP address so that you can manage it and give it the right IP address. Over the years, vendors have come up with any number of solutions to this, such as the ever-popular 'give it an initial static IP address and it's up to you to arrange a host that can talk to it'.
Recently we ran into a piece of hardware that has the most creative and clever solution to this that I've yet seen. If it's unconfigured, it listens for a 113-byte ICMP ping packet to its hardware Ethernet address; when it gets one, it plucks the destination IP address out of the packet and adopts it.
Of course this would normally present a chicken and egg problem, since it's not answering ARP requests until it knows what its IP address is, and your system doesn't know what Ethernet address to send the packets to until it does. But this is no problem, because what you do is just manually add an ARP entry for it on the system you're pinging from. (The unit's Ethernet address is printed on it.)
(For my future reference, this is 113 bytes total size, not payload
size; on Linux, you need to use '
ping -s 85 ...' to get the right
packet size, since
-s sets the payload size. The documentation did
not make this entirely clear.)
This particular piece of hardware also has a serial interface, so you can also fall back on that. We may wind up primarily managing it through the serial connection (partly because we have a well developed serial console infrastructure), although the shiny features of the built-in web server are reasonably attractive.