ESXi Processor Allocation

I'm just getting started with VMWare and am working on getting a new ESXi 4.1 host into my production environment. I'm in the process of creating some virtual machines, but really don't understand how processors are allocated. Unless I missed some documentation, I can't find anything that specifically tell me how this works.

Lets just say for example's sake that my host has one 4 core processor, giving me 4 logical processors that I can assign to hosts. Does this mean that if I assign 2 processors to one VM, that those two logical processors is dedicated to that guest and I have 2 left? What would happen if I assigned all 4 to one machine, then assigned 2 to another? I just don't understand how this is handled, and just need some insight on best practices.
Who is Participating?
chkdsk01Connect With a Mentor Commented:
I just wanted to add my 2 cents in here.  First of all, you will not see any better performance if all your VMs have the same number number of vCPUs.  The least amount of CPUs is best from the host's perspective, because there are less CPU cycles it needs to schedule.  Secondly, the link that is posted above is for ESX Server 2.  Here is a more recent paper about CPU scheduling and vSMP with vSphere 4.0.  Also, one more link to an article by Jason Boche about the differences& changes in 4.1 with vCPUs.
Also, while best practices do suggest starting at 1 vCPU and scalling up only if necessary, they do not suggest changing shares or setting reservations.  First of all, if you have no ESX host CPU contention (no overcommitment of resources), then changing the shares and reservations provide any benefit.  Here's a quick article from Duncan over at Yellow Bricks about reservations.
 Another good, quick article from Jason Boche.  This one pertains to resource pools, but a resource pool is nothing more than shares, limits, & reservations for a group of VMs.
Also, to the OP, if you have hyperthreading on your host server, Turn it on and get another 4 logical CPUs out of it.
By Default its all done time sharing on CPU cycles.  I will look for a a link now to better explain it.

As a general rule, you will get better performance overall if all of your VM's have the same amount of virtual processors.
MrN1c3Connect With a Mentor Commented:
Improve Your Query Performance Tuning

In this FREE six-day email course, you'll learn from Janis Griffin, Database Performance Evangelist. She'll teach 12 steps that you can use to optimize your queries as much as possible and see measurable results in your work. Get started today!

tspreethConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Hi ,
The number of Processors on the Base Machine will not limit your allocation for VMs.
In other words as you said if u allocate 2 Logical Processors to one VM  from ESXi physical machine which has 4 Procs , you can go ahead and create another 5 VMS with 2 cpus .
Here the allocation is the cpu cycle time .
Best practise is to allocate 1 cpu  for the VM and then increase the CPU reosurce allocation  and shares if the VM is more cpu intensive .
In case still if you need cpu then only allocate the second cpu.
jschwegAuthor Commented:
Okay, so basically leave it set for one processor and re-provision as needed. I assume that this is what the "Typical" VM setup does as it doesn't even give you the choice of allocating CPU's unless you choose custom.

I didn't think you could add CPU's to the VM after the OS was installed, you can do this? I only have experience with the VMWare Server product which it says it isn't recommended. This is my first experience with ESXi
Danny McDanielClinical Systems AnalystCommented:
To change the number of vCPU's assigned to a VM, you power down the guest, right-click, edit settings and there you can change the number of processors.  You will want to verify that the OS sees the new number of processors and if you're going from 1 to 2, make sure you are using a SMP kernel.  In windows xp/2003 and newer, you can usually do this from Device Manager.
Yes need to use custom and select the number of CPUs.
You can add CPUs to the VMs after powering it off and edit settings option.
Take a snap shot before you do in case you need to revert.
Also before adding CPU try and see if allocating more share and incresing the limit is sufficient for the VM to work .
Adding the CPU is the last resort.
jschwegAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the additional documentation.

So basically the general consensus is that the guest should always start out with a single processor, and ramp up if required. One of the machines that I'm virtualizing is a low load SQL server (less than 10 users, casual use), and I figured that I would give that machine 2 cpus since SQL can take advantage of that. After this discussion I will just start it out at 1 and go from there.
I would start it out at 1.  Heres a screenshot of our test SQL server.  Very similar usage, about 3 databases plus it is our SQL for our test vSphere environment.  It's got one CPU and 1 GB of RAM and you can see its utilization.  And for what it's worth, I just took this screenshot now, mid-day.

Sorry, the first column (101) is CPU in MHz.  Second column (1009) is allocated memory and the 11 is Memory Utilization.  The 1024 is Memory size... 1 GB
Also, CPUs are Intel Nehalem E5560 @ 2.53 GHz
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.