Measuring Resource Demand on Linux

Linux, and other Unix systems, have long had pretty good measurement systems for resource use. This resource use data, together with tools like top and vmstat, has allowed system administrators to effectively gauge system performance and determine bottlenecks. However, this needs to be done manually and is more art than science and nobody knows exactly how much resources a particular workload needs.

The result? Most machines have way more resources than needed for the workload they run. This is not a problem with dedicated computers, but once virtualization is introduced people will ask the question "how many virtual machines can I run per physical system?"

From this question alone it is obvious that resource demand is not the same as resource use, and resource demand should probably be measured separately by the operating system. In this paper I will introduce ways to measure resource demand for CPU, memory and other common resources, examine why resource demand is often different from resource, and explain how system administrators can benefit from having resource measurements.

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