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Resource management with cgroups

  • Cgroups are kernel features that allows fine-grained control over resource allocation for a single process, or a group of processes, called tasks. In the context of LXC this is quite important, because it makes it possible to assign limits to how much memory, CPU time, or I/O, any given container can use.

The cgroups we are most interested in are described in the following table:

SubsystemDescriptionDefined in
cpuAllocates CPU time for taskskernel/sched/core.c
cpuacctAccounts for CPU usagekernel/sched/core.c
cpuset Assigns CPU cores to taskskernel/cpuset.c
memoryAllocates memory for tasksmm/memcontrol.c
blkio Limits the I/O access to devicesblock/blk-cgroup.c
devicesAllows/denies access to devicessecurity/device_cgroup.c
freezerSuspends/resumes taskskernel/cgroup_freezer.c
net_clsTags network packetsnet/sched/cls_cgroup.c
net_prioPrioritizes network traffic net/core/netprio_cgroup.c
hugetlbLimits the HugeTLBmm/hugetlb_cgroup.c
  • Cgroups are organized in hierarchies, represented as directories in a Virtual File System (VFS). Similar to process hierarchies, where every process is a descendent of the init or systemd process, cgroups inherit some of the properties of their parents. Multiple cgroups hierarchies can exist on the system, each one representing a single or group of resources. It is possible to have hierarchies that combine two or more subsystems, for example, memory and I/O, and tasks assigned to a group will have limits applied on those resources.


If you are interested in how the different subsystems are implemented in the kernel, install the kernel source and have a look at the C files,
shown in the third column of the table.

Cgroups can be used in two ways:

  • By manually manipulating files and directories on a mounted VFS

  • Using userspace tools provided by various packages such as cgroup-bin on Debian/Ubuntu and libcgroup on RHEL/CentOS

Let’s have a look at few practical examples on how to use cgroups to limit resources. This will help us get a better understanding of how containers work.