Virtualization of memory resources has some associated overhead.

ESXi virtual machines can incur two kinds of memory overhead.

  • The additional time to access memory within a virtual machine.
  • The extra space needed by the ESXi host for its own code and data structures, beyond the memory allocated to each virtual machine.

ESXi memory virtualization adds little time overhead to memory accesses. Because the processor's paging hardware uses page tables (shadow page tables for software-based approach or two level page tables for hardware-assisted approach) directly, most memory accesses in the virtual machine can execute without address translation overhead.

The memory space overhead has two components.

  • A fixed, system-wide overhead for the VMkernel.
  • Additional overhead for each virtual machine.

Overhead memory includes space reserved for the virtual machine frame buffer and various virtualization data structures, such as shadow page tables. Overhead memory depends on the number of virtual CPUs and the configured memory for the guest operating system.