Host is Ubuntu 10.04 Server. 8 physical cores. Guest is Ubuntu 12.04; its allocated two CPU. I have other VMs, but the last few days I've run only this one guest.

Top inside the guest reports load from .05 - .20. Host sees this one kvm process 80-120% CPU, and maintains a total load of around 1-1.2. Host has no other workload than hosting guests.

This is not a problem with ksmd though I did have that problem and disabled ksmd after playing around with different values to no real satisfaction with the performance. Otherwise, the KVM settings are the default installed by the Ubuntu packages.

I installed this server fairly recently, and I have probably had this problem the entire time. At least, since I started running any regular workload on the guest.


  • I'm seeing this too, on a totally different platform with KVM. My speculation is that this is caused by the virtualization overhead: considering the definition of the load, it might mean that. Wild speculation only, so that's why I just comment. :)
    – Craig
    May 3, 2012 at 0:15
  • 500% overhead would be a bit more than advertised :) This did lead me to try an experiment though, to run another VM cloned from the first and running the same workload. It also advertised way too much usage with kvm process in host, though the total load increased only to around 1.6.
    – Jeremy
    May 3, 2012 at 1:37
  • @Craig I'd be curious to know if you are using the virtio disk driver, given my experience I mention in the answer below
    – Jeremy
    May 25, 2012 at 0:58
  • Yes, I'm using virtio.
    – Craig
    Sep 25, 2012 at 23:36

2 Answers 2


It turns out that the guest was under-reporting its CPU usage. I ran this same workload on another guest entirely and it used CPU resources at about the same level as my KVM host was reporting. This was not an apples to apples comparisan but it was a meaningful result.

Then, I had my real breakthrough. I noticed that, for this one guest I was mistakenly using the virtual "SCSI" controller. I changed it to Virtio and two things happened: host CPU usage went down a little bit, and the guest CPU went up - it reported almost exactly the same as the host, like we'd expect.


If it doesn't show in the guest but the VM process on the host is using the CPU, you know it's overhead. I do wonder if it might be spending all that time servicing hardware interrupts on behalf of the guest by polling or something? Either that or you've hit a bug.

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