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Overcommitting CPU and RAM

OpenStack allows you to overcommit CPU and RAM on compute nodes. This allows you to increase the number of instances running on your cloud at the cost of reducing the performance of the instances. The Compute service uses the following ratios by default:

  • CPU allocation ratio: 16:1
  • RAM allocation ratio: 1.5:1


Using a RAM allocation ratio above 1:1 can impact running VMs if all available memory on the hypervisor is used. If sufficient swap space is not available the system will have to rely on OOM killer to free space which can have a detrimental effect on running VMs.

The default CPU allocation ratio of 16:1 means that the scheduler allocates up to 16 virtual cores per physical core. For example, if a physical node has 12 cores, the scheduler sees 192 available virtual cores. With typical flavor definitions of 4 virtual cores per instance, this ratio would provide 48 instances on a physical node.

The formula for the number of virtual instances on a compute node is (OR*PC)/VC, where:


CPU overcommit ratio (virtual cores per physical core)


Number of physical cores


Number of virtual cores per instance

Similarly, the default RAM allocation ratio of 1.5:1 means that the scheduler allocates instances to a physical node as long as the total amount of RAM associated with the instances is less than 1.5 times the amount of RAM available on the physical node.

For example, if a physical node has 48 GB of RAM, the scheduler allocates instances to that node until the sum of the RAM associated with the instances reaches 72 GB (such as nine instances, in the case where each instance has 8 GB of RAM).


Regardless of the overcommit ratio, an instance can not be placed on any physical node with fewer raw (pre-overcommit) resources than the instance flavor requires.

You must select the appropriate CPU and RAM allocation ratio for your particular use case.

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