CPU virtualization emphasizes performance and runs directly on the processor whenever possible. The underlying physical resources are used whenever possible and the virtualization layer runs instructions only as needed to make virtual machines operate as if they were running directly on a physical machine.

CPU virtualization is not the same thing as emulation. ESXi does not use emulation to run virtual CPUs. With emulation, all operations are run in software by an emulator. A software emulator allows programs to run on a computer system other than the one for which they were originally written. The emulator does this by emulating, or reproducing, the original computer’s behavior by accepting the same data or inputs and achieving the same results. Emulation provides portability and runs software designed for one platform across several platforms.

When CPU resources are overcommitted, the ESXi host time-slices the physical processors across all virtual machines so each virtual machine runs as if it has its specified number of virtual processors. When an ESXi host runs multiple virtual machines, it allocates to each virtual machine a share of the physical resources. With the default resource allocation settings, all virtual machines associated with the same host receive an equal share of CPU per virtual CPU. This means that a single-processor virtual machines is assigned only half of the resources of a dual-processor virtual machine.