The memory balloon driver (vmmemctl) collaborates with the server to reclaim pages that are considered least valuable by the guest operating system.

The driver uses a proprietary ballooning technique that provides predictable performance that closely matches the behavior of a native system under similar memory constraints. This technique increases or decreases memory pressure on the guest operating system, causing the guest to use its own native memory management algorithms. When memory is tight, the guest operating system determines which pages to reclaim and, if necessary, swaps them to its own virtual disk.

Memory Ballooning in the Guest Operating System
This figure illustrates memory ballooning in the guest operating system.

Note

You must configure the guest operating system with sufficient swap space. Some guest operating systems have additional limitations.

If necessary, you can limit the amount of memory vmmemctl reclaims by setting the sched.mem.maxmemctl parameter for a specific virtual machine. This option specifies the maximum amount of memory that can be reclaimed from a virtual machine in megabytes (MB). See Set Advanced Virtual Machine Attributes in the vSphere Web Client.