Latency Sensitive VMs and vSphere DRS

Some applications are inherently highly latency sensitive, and cannot afford long vMotion times. VMs running such applications are termed as being ‘Latency Sensitive’. These VMs consume resources very actively, so vMotion of such VMs is often a slow process. Such VMs require special care during cluster load balancing, due to their latency sensitivity.

You can tag a VM as latency sensitive, by setting the VM option through the vSphere web client as shown below (VM → Edit Settings → VM Options → Advanced)

By default, the latency sensitivity value of a VM is set to ‘normal’. Changing it to ‘high’ will make the VM ‘Latency Sensitive’. There are other levels like ‘medium’ and ‘low’ which are experimental right now. Once the value is set to high, 100% of the VM configured memory should be reserved. It is also recommended to reserve 100% of its CPU. This white paper talks more about the VM latency sensitivity feature in vSphere.

DRS support

VMware vSphere DRS provides support for handling such special VMs. If a VM is part of a DRS cluster, tagging it as latency sensitive will create a VM-Host soft affinity rule. This will ensure that DRS will not move the VM unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, in scenarios where the cluster is over-utilized, all the soft rules will be dropped and VMs can be moved.

To showcase how this option works, we ran a simple experiment with a four host DRS cluster running a latency sensitive VM ( on one of its host (


As we can see from the screenshot, CPU usage of host ‘’ is higher compared to the other hosts, and the cluster load is not balanced. So DRS migrates VMs from the highly utilised host ( to distribute the load.

Since latency sensitive VM is a heavy consumer of resources, it will be the best possible candidate to migrate, as moving it will distribute the load in one shot. So DRS migrated the latency sensitive VM to a different host in order to distribute the load.


Then we put the cluster back in its original state, and set the VM latency sensitivity value to ‘high’ using VM options (as mentioned earlier). Also set 100% of memory and cpu reservations. This time, due to associated soft-affinity rule, DRS completely avoided the latency sensitive VM. It migrated other VMs from the same host to distribute the load.


Things to note:

  • 100% memory reservation for the latency sensitive VM is a must. Without the memory reservation, vMotion will fail; if the VM is powered-Off, it cannot be powered-On until reservation is set.
  • Since DRS uses a soft-affinity rule, sometimes the cluster might get imbalanced due to  these VMs.
  • If multiple VMs are latency sensitive, spread them across hosts and then tag them as latency sensitive. This will avoid over-utilization of hosts and results in better resource distribution.

About vPierre

Virtualisierung, Cloud Computing, Orchestrierung und Automation
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