Ask The Perf Guy: What’s The Story With Hyperthreading and Virtualization?


There’s been a fair amount of confusion amongst customers and partners lately about the right way to think about hyperthreading when virtualizing Exchange. Hopefully I can clear up that confusion very quickly.

We’ve had relatively strong guidance in recent versions of Exchange that hyperthreading should be disabled. This guidance is specific to physical server deployments, not virtualized deployments. The reasoning for strongly recommending that hyperthreading be disabled on physical deployments can really be summarized in 2 different points:

  • The increase in logical processor count at the OS level due to enabling hyperthreading results in increased memory consumption (due to various algorithms that allocate memory heaps based on core count), and in some cases also results in increased CPU consumption or other scalability issues due to high thread counts and lock contention.
  • The increased CPU throughput associated with hyperthreading is non-deterministic and difficult to measure, leading to capacity planning challenges.

The first point is really the largest concern, and in a virtual deployment, it is a non-issue with regard to configuration of hyperthreading. The guest VMs do not see the logical processors presented to the host, so they see no difference in processor count when hyperthreading is turned on or off. Where this concern can become an issue for guest VMs is in the number of virtual CPUs presented to the VM. Don’t allocate more virtual CPUs to your Exchange server VMs that are necessary based on sizing calculations. If you allocate extra virtual CPUs, you can run into the same class of issues associated with hyperthreading on physical deployments.

In summary:

  • If you have a physical deployment, turn off hyperthreading.
  • If you have a virtual deployment, you can enable hyperthreading (best to follow the recommendation of your hypervisor vendor), and:
    • Don’t allocate extra virtual CPUs to Exchange server guest VMs.
    • Don’t use the extra logical CPUs exposed to the host for sizing/capacity calculations (see the hyperthreading guidance at https://aka.ms/e2013sizing for further details on this).

Jeff Mealiffe
Principal PM Manager
Office 365 Customer Experience

Comments (3)
  1. Very nice explanation. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Jeff, for sharing such a valuable information.

  3. IT-Jigs says:

    Good Explain

Comments are closed.

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