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8.9. Improving Guest Virtual Machine Response Time
Guest virtual machines can sometimes be slow to respond with certain workloads and usage patterns. Examples of situations which may cause slow or unresponsive guest virtual machines:
- Severely overcommitted memory.
- Overcommitted memory with high processor usage
- Other (not
qemu-kvmprocesses) busy or stalled processes on the host physical machine.
KVM guest virtual machines function as Linux processes. Linux processes are not permanently kept in main memory (physical RAM) and will be placed into swap space (virtual memory) especially if they are not being used. If a guest virtual machine is inactive for long periods of time, the host physical machine kernel may move the guest virtual machine into swap. As swap is slower than physical memory it may appear that the guest is not responding. This changes once the guest is loaded into the main memory. Note that the process of loading a guest virtual machine from swap to main memory may take several seconds per gigabyte of RAM assigned to the guest virtual machine, depending on the type of storage used for swap and the performance of the components.
KVM guest virtual machines processes may be moved to swap regardless of whether memory is overcommitted or overall memory usage.
Using unsafe overcommit levels or overcommitting with swap turned off guest virtual machine processes or other critical processes is not recommended. Always ensure the host physical machine has sufficient swap space when overcommitting memory.
For more information on overcommitting with KVM, refer to Chapter 6, Overcommitting with KVM.
Virtual memory allows a Linux system to use more memory than there is physical RAM on the system. Underused processes are swapped out which allows active processes to use memory, improving memory utilization. Disabling swap reduces memory utilization as all processes are stored in physical RAM.
If swap is turned off, do not overcommit guest virtual machines. Overcommitting guest virtual machines without any swap can cause guest virtual machines or the host physical machine system to crash.