Running virtual machines without VMTools

CptnTrips
CptnTrips used Ask the Experts™
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I have a server that is having unusal memory problems. It appeared that the applicaiton had a memory leak. We went back and forth with the vendor, literally for months trying to rememdy the problem.

It is a Windows 2008 R2 virtual server running on ESX 4.1. RamMap showed 9 to 10GB of data being use by "Driver Locked" as stated in this case:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Server/Windows_Server_2008/Q_26259037.html
As stated in this case as well, killing VMtools sees to have resolved my memory issue.

So my question is this; considering I have no problems from any other Windows 2008 R2 server I have in this cluster like this, I am reluctant to turn off VMtools. I am by no means a VM expert and am unsure what the consequences are other than jerkly mouse in the conolse, inability to drag and drop files from my desktop to the console and one or two other things.

Is there any significant downside to removing VMtools from a VM for an extended period of time? Am I going to get bitten in the ass weeks, months from now because I don't have VMtools loaded?
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Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
If you edit the VM Configuration, on the resources tab, is the Memory limit set? If so set it unlimeted and try again.  You do not need to stop the VM or reboot.
Technical Development Lead
Commented:
This is a well known fix to the memory balloon problem.

If your assigned memory to the VM Exceeds that of the allocated resourses memory then you will have balloon problems. Just make sure that your resource memory tab has the unlimited box ticked, problem goes away.
ChrisLead Infrastructure Architect

Commented:
If you turn off VMtools you lose the interaction to the host.
you won't be able to use the vmnet3 NIC's which means you loose performance there

I think most of the HA/DRS feature will not work because the rely on the heartbeat from the tools
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
Fellow 2018
Expert of the Year 2017

Commented:
It is recommended and best practice to install and use VMware Tools in the Virtual Machine.

However if its causing service issues, dump vmware tools, and remove.
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
VMWare tools is not the issue, it is configuration. The loss of VMWare Tools is a no brainer, dont do it.

Author

Commented:
Neilsr-

I have 16GB of memory assigned to this VM. If I create a resource group with 16GB of memory set as a minimum, expandable and no limits, I see the runaway memory. Is this what you are suggesting to solve the memory issue?
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
No I have not said to set any minimum, just tick the no limit box.
Not a seperate resource group, I am on about the resource tab on the VM Configuration when you edit the VM.

Author

Commented:
What if I remove VMtools and simply reinstall without the memory management?

Author

Commented:
Neilsr, I'm with you now. I will investigate that as well. Thanks.

Author

Commented:
I do see that processors were set to unlimited but memory was not. Let see how this change does. Thanks again and I will update you when I have some new information.
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
Why do that? You just need to edit the VM Settings and tick one box.....

Author

Commented:
I have edited the VM settings and ticked the Unlimited option of the memory tab. This will be the only change I am testing.
ChrisLead Infrastructure Architect

Commented:
one question - if its a memory leak then giving it unlimted memory will just use up more on your host

have you checked the version of the VMtools as it shows in the post you linked to
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
Yes

Now give the VM a few minutes to stablise.

We had this issue on several fileservers where the allocated memory was greater that the Resource Limit on the VM, made the FS as slow as hell due to the ballooning.

Tick the Unlimited box and 5 mins later.... VIOLA!!!

Author

Commented:
Awesome. I will let you know the results. Thanks!
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
*Crosses fingers now* Sounds exactly like the same problem......
Robin CMSenior Security and Infrastructure Engineer

Commented:
Use the following Powershell (via PowerCLI) to show any VMs that have memory limits set:
Get-Cluster YourClusterName | Get-VM | Get-VMResourceConfiguration | where {$_.MemLimitMB -ne "-1"}

Author

Commented:
Neilsr - so far so good. I actually scalled the memory back from 16GB to 8GB and processors from 4 to 2 and I am seeing very positive results. Not sure why this is not a problem for all of my other 2008 R2 serves though?

robincm - thanks! I have been checking them and so far, there only seems to be a small number with a limit set. I am still wondering why I haven't seen this problem with them as well though. The best I can come up with, these being set may be the result of the 4.0 to 4.1 upgrade? Not sure why they are different than all of the others but this seems to be working so far.

On my way out the door, I will update you in the morning. Thanks again!

Author

Commented:
One additional note, I may be imagining this but the CPU usage is down to pratically 0% now as well... Would CPU usage have been affected much by the this issue?
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
Yep it makes a MASSIVE impact on machines. never been given an explination from VMWare that tells me anything though.
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
As to why the impact is only showing on this one machine. I have found that the impact is only felt when the allocated memory is in excess of the resource limit by a fair amount.

If your resource Limit was ~= to your allocated then no impact.
If your Resoucre Limit << your Allocated Memory then.... OOPS!
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
Do you have an update? Has that solved your problem?

Author

Commented:
Sorry for the delay. I saw postive results until this morning. I am back to 0 free memory again. However, this time when I run RAMMap, "Driver Locked" is using nothing where it was using GB's before. So I seem to have had a positive impact in the sense that I see no ballooning or anything that indicates anything going on with memory in the VMware side of things. But I am back to 0 free memory again as of this morning...
Neil RussellTechnical Development Lead

Commented:
So the solution to the question you asked is correct.

Now the fact that your server is using all available memory to it is a different matter.

The ballooning and Driver Locked issue is resolved.

If you run your server but NOT the application I assume you have no memory problems?


You should be talking to your application people again I think on that matter.
Robin CMSenior Security and Infrastructure Engineer

Commented:
Bear in mind that some applications (e.g. SQL Server) will by default gradually consume all the RAM in the server (you can configure a maximum limit). In the case of SQL Server this is because the designers know that keeping as much data in RAM as possible is a good thing as RAM is significantly faster than disk.
Of course it could just be a memory leak :-)

Author

Commented:
I do beleive the problem to be related to the application or possibly a known issue with Windows and cached memory. Either way, I no longer beleive it to be VMware related. I am leaning towards this right now as the tests specified are getting me results that indicate this is a problem.
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/976618

Thanks for your help.

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