Safe approach to dynamic memory and memory overcommit

I’ve had another discussion with people passionate about memory overcommitting for virtual desktops. My stance is it can be dangerous if you take it too far. Unfortunately, many reports I see talking about the value of memory overcommit take it too far. So where is just far enough? Let’s go through an example (I’ve generalized this as I don’t want to talk about each different hypervisor)…

Let’s say you need 100 servers (192GB RAM) to host virtual desktops for 7500 users. Those 100 servers will reach maximum capacity (CPU and Memory) when they host 75 virtual desktops VMs (2.5GB RAM). For fault tolerance, you go with the N+10% formula where you will have 10% more servers than you need. That means you really have 110 servers.

As I spread the load across 110 servers, my server concurrency drops from 75 users per server to 68. That also lowers my RAM usage from 187GB to 170GB. I paid for the RAM, so I want to use the RAM.

In this example, being conservative, I will configure the upper memory threshold for the desktops to 2.8GB RAM each and the lower to be 2.5GB (which is what I determined these users must have).

Based on the example, during normal production mode, my desktops are not overcommitting RAM. However, during an outage (planned or unplanned), my servers will be required to host additional desktop VMs. As no RAM is free, the desktop VMs are overcommitting, although spread across the entire server and the entire environment, the impact is small and likely to go unnoticed. Additionally, the overcommitting only occurs during an outage. So day-to-day operations continue to run smoothly and provide a good user experience (at least from a RAM perspective).

What have you used on your deployments?


XD Design Handbook

2 thoughts on “Safe approach to dynamic memory and memory overcommit”

  1. A 7500 VDI deployment…. mmm so risky aproximation. Isn’t it?

    For this kinds of deployments I always consider a Mix of Hosted Desktops / VDI Desktops, and deliver VDI desktops only to users that truly need a full VDI desktop (3D pro graphics, old legacy hardware attached, or legacy software that only works on old XP/W7 machines)…. For the rest, Hosted Desktops is better than VDI.
    With only one Hosted Desktop Server (as XenApp), its easy to provide more than 256 Desktops without great problems.


  2. When using XenServer, I don’t use memory overcommit. I go with N+1 for each resource pool with the pool master being dedicated with no VMs during normal operations. If a host fails the VMs will go to the pool master. If I need to do host maintenance, the VMs can move to the pool master.

    For ESX, I start out under-commited and work my way up. I closely monitor ballooning and host swapping to determine an appropriate % of over commitment for each customer.


Leave a Reply to N Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.