Number of vCPUs vs Number of Cores (UVMs, NUMA and CVMs)

  • 15 July 2020
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Do you still wonder which one to use Number of vCPU or Number of Cores per Socket when configuring a VM? You read something about it and it makes sense and you think you will now remember only to stumble upon the same dilemma sometime later. Shall we clear this once and for all?


vCPU and cores are inherently bound to a NUMA node which, in essence, is as a processor with direct attached memory. Under some (but not all) conditions, accessing memory or devices across NUMA boundaries will result in decreased performance. Hence the goal is to configure a VM with CPU and memory values that remain within the boundaries of a single NUMA node. The exception would be a NUMA-aware application.

Another thing to remember is that hot add of the number of cores is not supported on AHV meaning adjustment of number of cores value for a VM requires the VM to be a powered off.


To ensure optimal performance of the VMs in the cluster follow simple rules:

  • Use vCPUs instead of cores to increase the number of vCPUs available for a VM. Hot add of CPU cores is not supported.
  • Use only as many vCPUs as the VM requires to limit resource waste. If the application performance is not affected, it is preferable from an AHV resource scheduling and usage perspective to have two vCPUs running at 50% utilization each, rather than four vCPUs running at 25% utilization each. Two vCPUs are easier to schedule than four.
  • Use the physical core count instead of the hyperthreaded count for maximum single VM sizing. Do not configure a single VM with more vCPU cores than pCPU cores available on the AHV host. This configuration can cause significant performance problems for the VM.

For the same performance reasons on Nutanix clusters, the Controller VM (CVM) should be prevented from accessing remote NUMA memory for performance reasons. That is why the CVM should be pinned to a given NUMA node. When installing Nutanix software the Foundation service decides on the NUMA node to host the CVM.


To verify the size of the NUMA node on AHV cluster follow AHV Best Practices: Memory.

To confirm CVM is pinned to the NUMA node  KB-8715 [Performance] CVM based NUMA settings might not pin CVM to correct CPU socket on VMware ESXi based systems

AHV Best Practices: CPU configuration

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