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Overview of the vmstat Utility

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

The vmstat utility is the most common UNIX monitoring utility, and it is found in the majority of UNIX dialects (vmstat is called osview on IRIX). The vmstat utility displays various server values over a given time interval. The vmstat utility is invoked from the UNIX prompt, and it has several numeric parameters. The first numeric argument to vmstat represents the time interval (expressed in seconds) between server samples. The second argument specifies the number of samples to be reported. In the example that follows, vmstat is executed to take 5 samples at 2-second intervals:

L 5-1

Root> vmstat 2 5

Almost all UNIX servers have some version of vmstat. Before we look at the details for this powerful utility, let's explore the differences that you are likely to see.

Dialect Differences in vmstat

Because each hardware vendor writes their own vmstat utility, there are significant differences in vmstat output. The vmstat output is different depending on the dialect of UNIX, but each dialect contains the important server metrics.

Because vendors have written their own versions of the vmstat utility, it can be useful to consult the online UNIX documentation to see the display differences. In UNIX, you can see your documentation by invoking the man pages. The term man is short for manual, and you can see the documentation for your particular implementation of vmstat by entering man vmstat from your UNIX prompt.

Following is a sample of vmstat output for the four most popular dialects of UNIX. In each example, the important metrics appear in bold.

vmstat for Solaris

In the Sun Solaris operating environment, the output from vmstat will appear like this:

L 5-2

>vmstat 2 5

procs    memory            page    disk          faults    cpu
 r b w   swap  free  re  mf pi po …  s6 -- --  in   sy   cs us sy id
 0 0 0 2949744 988800 0   4  0  0 …  0  0  0  148  200   41  0  0 99
 0 0 0 2874808 938960 27 247 0  1 …  0  0  0  196  434   64  1  2 98
 0 0 0 2874808 938960 0   0  0  0 …  0  0  0  134   55   32  0  0 100
 0 0 0 2874808 938960 0   0  0  0 …  0  0  0  143  114   39  0  0 100
 0 0 0 2874808 938960 0   0  0  0 …  0  0  0  151   86   38  0  0 100

vmstat for Linux

In the Linux operating environment, the output from vmstat will appear like this:

L 5-3

>vmstat 2 5

   procs                      memory  swap    io     system         cpu
 r  b  w   swpd   free   buff  cache  si  … bi    bo   in    cs  us  sy  id
 1  0  0    140  90372 726988  26228   0  …  0     0   14     7   0   0   4
 0  0  0    140  90372 726988  26228   0  …  0     2  103    11   0   0 100
 0  0  0    140  90372 726988  26228   0  …  0     5  106    10   0   0 100
 0  0  0    140  90372 726988  26228   0  …  0     0  101    11   0   0 100
 0  0  0    140  90372 726988  26228   0  …  0     0  102    11   0   0 100

vmstat for AIX

In the IBM AIX operating environment, the output from vmstat will appear like this:

L 5-4

>vmstat 2 5

kthr     memory             page              faults        cpu    
----- ----------- ------------------------ ------------ -----------
 r  b   avm    fre  re  pi  po  fr   sr  cy  in     sy  cs  us sy id wa
 7  5 220214   141   0   0   0  42   53   0 1724 12381 2206 19 46 28  7
 9  5 220933   195   0   0   1 216  290   0 1952 46118 2712 27 55 13  5
13  5 220646   452   0   0   1  33   54   0 2130 86185 3014 30 59  8  3
 6  5 220228   672   0   0   0   0    0   0 1929 25068 2485 25 49 16 10

vmstat for HP/UX

In the Hewlett Packard HP/UX operating environment, the output from vmstat will appear like this:

L 5-5

>vmstat 2 5
r  b  w   avm    free re at  pi po  …     in   sy    cs  us sy id
1  0  0 70635  472855 10  5   2  0  …   2024 2859   398   4  1 96
1  0  0 74985  472819  9  0   1  0  …   1864 1820   322   0  0 100
0  0  0 83056  472819  2  0   0  0  …   1846 1684   302   0  0 100
0  0  0 81390  472819  0  0   0  0  …   1847 1571   288   0  0 100
0  0  0 78788  472819  0  0   0  0  …   1852 1608   291   0  0 100

Now that we have seen the different display options for each dialect of vmstat, let's take a look at the data items in vmstat and understand the common values that we can capture in STATSPACK tables.


This is an excerpt from "Oracle9i High Performance tuning with STATSPACK" by Oracle Press.


If you like Oracle tuning, you may enjoy the new book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", over 900 pages of BC's favorite tuning tips & scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.


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