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I have a CentOS "development / testing" server that runs extremely slowly. It's running Apache and Mysql using PHP. Top reports that 98% of the CPU utilization is frequently spent on "st" - Steal Time. What could cause a server to spend so much CPU on steal time, and how can I diagnose the problem? I didn't notice the problem until after I granted a third party developer root access (for all I know it has a root kit running, though unlikely).

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Have you ruled out the basic scenario found in man top? The one about virtual machines & the hypervisor. – Patrick Mar 30 '12 at 21:58
@Patrick I didn't find the info in man top you're talking about, but I wouldn't rule a hypervisor issue out. I'm pushing the processor to it's limit constantly, so there might be something in the core os throttling my environment. – JMC Mar 31 '12 at 2:04
Steal time is defined as "The amount of CPU 'stolen' from this virtual machine by the hypervisor for other tasks (such as running another virtual machine)." – Patrick Mar 31 '12 at 5:26
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The "steal time" is related to how much time your VPS is waiting for the underlying hardware. You might want to bug your hosting provider to check if they can see anything going on with that particular host.

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+1 - That makes sense since I'm over-utilizing the CPU – JMC Mar 31 '12 at 2:09

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