What it is
Many products in the Solid State Logic range are controlled by software installed on a host computer. For instance, Nucleus is controlled by the "Nucleus Remote" software, Duality is controlled by the "Duality Remote" software, X-Patch is controlled by the "X-Patch Remote" software, and so on.
Data are transmitted between the SSL device and the computer via ethernet cables and in order for them to communicate, the SSL device and the computer both need to have an "address" of some kind.
The ethernet cable connection may be direct between the SSL device and the computer. If this is the case the SSL device will usually use a "fixed IP" address. The MADI-X8 is a bit different in that it will use a "link local" address.
However, the SSL device and the host computer are not always connected directly. In many cases, they are both connected to the same LAN (Local Area Network) and must "find" each other across that network.
This is where the DHCP server comes in.
In a network, the DHCP server is the device that gives IP addresses to all other devices on the network. So in order for other devices to communicate effectively via a LAN, there must be a DHCP server.
There is sometimes confusion about which device is or isn't a DHCP server. Generally speaking:
- A network hub is not a DHCP server. It cannot give IP addresses to other devices on the network.
- Most switches are not DHCP servers. Some are, but you should never make assumptions in this respect. If in doubt, check the technical specifications of your switch.
- Most routers are DHCP servers. However, again, do not make assumptions and check the specifications.
An example of a router that works as a DHCP server is the Trendnet TEW631-BRP (link correct at the time of writing).
Netgear usually do not mention a DHCP server capability in the product specifications published on their website, however a statement on their website suggests that all their routers are DHCP servers: http://kb.netgear.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1132 (link correct at the time of writing).
Why you need one
Typically, you need a DHCP server if you want to build a network, allowing multiple devices and/or computers to communicate together and possibly share an internet connection.
Please note that if you switch an SSL device to use DHCP instead of a fixed address, you will not be able to communicate with that device again without a DHCP server. So you should only switch a device to using DHCP if you are certain that you have a DHCP server in your network.