System Administration Guide: Virtualization Using the Solaris Operating System

Chapter 10 Physical Memory Control Using the Resource Capping Daemon (Overview)

The resource capping daemon rcapd enables you to regulate physical memory consumption by processes running in projects that have resource caps defined. If you are running zones on your system, you can use rcapd from the global zone to regulate physical memory consumption in non-global zones. See Chapter 17, Planning and Configuring Non-Global Zones (Tasks).

The following topics are covered in this chapter.

For procedures using the rcapd feature, see Chapter 11, Administering the Resource Capping Daemon (Tasks).

Introduction to the Resource Capping Daemon

A resource cap is an upper bound placed on the consumption of a resource, such as physical memory. Per-project physical memory caps are supported.

The resource capping daemon and its associated utilities provide mechanisms for physical memory resource cap enforcement and administration.

Like the resource control, the resource cap can be defined by using attributes of project entries in the project database. However, while resource controls are synchronously enforced by the kernel, resource caps are asynchronously enforced at the user level by the resource capping daemon. With asynchronous enforcement, a small delay occurs as a result of the sampling interval used by the daemon.

For information about rcapd, see the rcapd(1M) man page. For information about projects and the project database, see Chapter 2, Projects and Tasks (Overview) and the project(4) man page. For information about resource controls, see Chapter 6, Resource Controls (Overview).

How Resource Capping Works

The daemon repeatedly samples the resource utilization of projects that have physical memory caps. The sampling interval used by the daemon is specified by the administrator. See Determining Sample Intervals for additional information. When the system's physical memory utilization exceeds the threshold for cap enforcement, and other conditions are met, the daemon takes action to reduce the resource consumption of projects with memory caps to levels at or below the caps.

The virtual memory system divides physical memory into segments known as pages. Pages are the fundamental unit of physical memory in the Solaris memory management subsystem. To read data from a file into memory, the virtual memory system reads in one page at a time, or pages in a file. To reduce resource consumption, the daemon can page out, or relocate, infrequently used pages to a swap device, which is an area outside of physical memory.

The daemon manages physical memory by regulating the size of a project workload's resident set relative to the size of its working set. The resident set is the set of pages that are resident in physical memory. The working set is the set of pages that the workload actively uses during its processing cycle. The working set changes over time, depending on the process's mode of operation and the type of data being processed. Ideally, every workload has access to enough physical memory to enable its working set to remain resident. However, the working set can also include the use of secondary disk storage to hold the memory that does not fit in physical memory.

Only one instance of rcapd can run at any given time.

Attribute to Limit Physical Memory Usage for Projects

To define a physical memory resource cap for a project, establish a resident set size (RSS) cap by adding this attribute to the project database entry:


The total amount of physical memory, in bytes, that is available to processes in the project.

For example, the following line in the /etc/project file sets an RSS cap of 10 Gbytes for a project named db.


Note –

The system might round the specified cap value to a page size.

You can also use the projmod command to set the rcap.max-rss attribute in the /etc/project file.

For more information, see Setting the Resident Set Size Cap.

rcapd Configuration

You use the rcapadm command to configure the resource capping daemon. You can perform the following actions:

To configure the daemon, you must have superuser privileges or have the Process Management profile in your list of profiles. The System Administrator role includes the Process Management profile.

Configuration changes can be incorporated into rcapd according to the configuration interval (see rcapd Operation Intervals) or on demand by sending a SIGHUP (see the kill(1) man page).

If used without arguments, rcapadm displays the current status of the resource capping daemon if it has been configured.

The following subsections discuss cap enforcement, cap values, and rcapd operation intervals.

Using the Resource Capping Daemon on a System With Zones Installed

You can control resident set size (RSS) usage of a zone by setting the capped-memory resource when you configure the zone. For more information, see Physical Memory Control and the capped-memory Resource. You can run rcapd in a zone, including the global zone, to enforce memory caps on projects in that zone.

You can set a temporary cap for the maximum amount of memory that can be consumed by a specified zone, until the next reboot. See How to Specify a Temporary Resource Cap for a Zone.

If you are using rcapd on a zone to regulate physical memory consumption by processes running in projects that have resource caps defined, you must configure the daemon in those zones.

When choosing memory caps for applications in different zones, you generally do not have to consider that the applications reside in different zones. The exception is per-zone services. Per-zone services consume memory. This memory consumption must be considered when determining the amount of physical memory for a system, as well as memory caps.

Note –

You cannot run rcapd in an lx branded zone. However, you can use the daemon from the global zone to cap memory in the branded zone.

Memory Cap Enforcement Threshold

The memory cap enforcement threshold is the percentage of physical memory utilization on the system that triggers cap enforcement. When the system exceeds this utilization, caps are enforced. The physical memory used by applications and the kernel is included in this percentage. The percentage of utilization determines the way in which memory caps are enforced.

To enforce caps, memory can be paged out from project workloads.

A workload is permitted to use physical memory up to its cap. A workload can use additional memory as long as the system's memory utilization stays below the memory cap enforcement threshold.

To set the value for cap enforcement, see How to Set the Memory Cap Enforcement Threshold.

Determining Cap Values

If a project cap is set too low, there might not be enough memory for the workload to proceed effectively under normal conditions. The paging that occurs because the workload requires more memory has a negative effect on system performance.

Projects that have caps set too high can consume available physical memory before their caps are exceeded. In this case, physical memory is effectively managed by the kernel and not by rcapd.

In determining caps on projects, consider these factors.

Impact on I/O system

The daemon can attempt to reduce a project workload's physical memory usage whenever the sampled usage exceeds the project's cap. During cap enforcement, the swap devices and other devices that contain files that the workload has mapped are used. The performance of the swap devices is a critical factor in determining the performance of a workload that routinely exceeds its cap. The execution of the workload is similar to running it on a machine with the same amount of physical memory as the workload's cap.

Impact on CPU usage

The daemon's CPU usage varies with the number of processes in the project workloads it is capping and the sizes of the workloads' address spaces.

A small portion of the daemon's CPU time is spent sampling the usage of each workload. Adding processes to workloads increases the time spent sampling usage.

Another portion of the daemon's CPU time is spent enforcing caps when they are exceeded. The time spent is proportional to the amount of virtual memory involved. CPU time spent increases or decreases in response to corresponding changes in the total size of a workload's address space. This information is reported in the vm column of rcapstat output. See Monitoring Resource Utilization With rcapstat and the rcapstat(1) man page for more information.

Reporting on shared memory

The rcapd daemon reports the RSS of pages of memory that are shared with other processes or mapped multiple times within the same process as a reasonably accurate estimate. If processes in different projects share the same memory, then that memory will be counted towards the RSS total for all projects sharing the memory.

The estimate is usable with workloads such as databases, which utilize shared memory extensively. For database workloads, you can also sample a project's regular usage to determine a suitable initial cap value by using output from the -J or -Z options of the prstat command. For more information, see the prstat(1M) man page.

rcapd Operation Intervals

You can tune the intervals for the periodic operations performed by rcapd.

All intervals are specified in seconds. The rcapd operations and their default interval values are described in the following table.


Default Interval Value in Seconds 




Number of seconds between scans for processes that have joined or left a project workload. Minimum value is 1 second. 


Number of seconds between samplings of resident set size and subsequent cap enforcements. Minimum value is 1 second. 



Number of seconds between updates to paging statistics. If set to 0, statistics are not updated, and output from rcapstat is not current.



Number of seconds between reconfigurations. In a reconfiguration event, rcapadm reads the configuration file for updates, and scans the project database for new or revised project caps. Sending a SIGHUP to rcapd causes an immediate reconfiguration.

To tune intervals, see How to Set Operation Intervals.

Determining rcapd Scan Intervals

The scan interval controls how often rcapd looks for new processes. On systems with many processes running, the scan through the list takes more time, so it might be preferable to lengthen the interval in order to reduce the overall CPU time spent. However, the scan interval also represents the minimum amount of time that a process must exist to be attributed to a capped workload. If there are workloads that run many short-lived processes, rcapd might not attribute the processes to a workload if the scan interval is lengthened.

Determining Sample Intervals

The sample interval configured with rcapadm is the shortest amount of time rcapd waits between sampling a workload's usage and enforcing the cap if it is exceeded. If you reduce this interval, rcapd will, under most conditions, enforce caps more frequently, possibly resulting in increased I/O due to paging. However, a shorter sample interval can also lessen the impact that a sudden increase in a particular workload's physical memory usage might have on other workloads. The window between samplings, in which the workload can consume memory unhindered and possibly take memory from other capped workloads, is narrowed.

If the sample interval specified to rcapstat is shorter than the interval specified to rcapd with rcapadm, the output for some intervals can be zero. This situation occurs because rcapd does not update statistics more frequently than the interval specified with rcapadm. The interval specified with rcapadm is independent of the sampling interval used by rcapstat.

Monitoring Resource Utilization With rcapstat

Use rcapstat to monitor the resource utilization of capped projects. To view an example rcapstat report, see Producing Reports With rcapstat.

You can set the sampling interval for the report and specify the number of times that statistics are repeated.


Specifies the sampling interval in seconds. The default interval is 5 seconds.


Specifies the number of times that the statistics are repeated. By default, rcapstat reports statistics until a termination signal is received or until the rcapd process exits.

The paging statistics in the first report issued by rcapstat show the activity since the daemon was started. Subsequent reports reflect the activity since the last report was issued.

The following table defines the column headings in an rcapstat report.

rcapstat Column Headings



The project ID of the capped project. 


The project name. 


The number of processes in the project. 


The total amount of virtual memory size used by processes in the project, including all mapped files and devices, in kilobytes (K), megabytes (M), or gigabytes (G). 


The estimated amount of the total resident set size (RSS) of the processes in the project, in kilobytes (K), megabytes (M), or gigabytes (G), not accounting for pages that are shared. 


The RSS cap defined for the project. See Attribute to Limit Physical Memory Usage for Projects or the rcapd(1M) man page for information about how to specify memory caps.


The total amount of memory that rcapd attempted to page out since the last rcapstat sample.


The average amount of memory that rcapd attempted to page out during each sample cycle that occurred since the last rcapstat sample. The rate at which rcapd samples collection RSS can be set with rcapadm. See rcapd Operation Intervals.


The total amount of memory that rcapd successfully paged out since the last rcapstat sample.


An estimate of the average amount of memory that rcapd successfully paged out during each sample cycle that occurred since the last rcapstat sample. The rate at which rcapd samples process RSS sizes can be set with rcapadm. See rcapd Operation Intervals.

Commands Used With rcapd

Command Reference 



Monitors the resource utilization of capped projects. 


Configures the resource capping daemon, displays the current status of the resource capping daemon if it has been configured, and enables or disables resource capping. Also used to set a temporary memory cap. 


The resource capping daemon.