How to Limit Resources an LXD Container Can Use

Lx Containers Limit Resources Featured

In a previous article, you can explore what LXD is and how to get started with it, in case you’re unfamiliar with the platform.

In most cases, you will use multiple containers on the same system to split a larger whole into smaller components. It makes sense to limit the amount of resources each component can use. But why? Obviously, the number of reasons is as unlimited as the scenarios for which you can use containers.

When Limits on LXD Containers Can Be Useful

  • Providing a service and giving each customer an LXD instance. For example, this might be a large server, and you host each customer website into a separate container. If a website gets a sudden burst of traffic, this might slow down the other instances. With limits, only one container will slow down, and the rest will operate normally.
  • In a similar scenario, you can easily sell different service plans. One customer can pay for X amount of resources, and the other can pay for Y amount. And you can easily adjust this with a few simple commands.
  • You can protect yourself against simpler forms of Denial of Service attacks. When one container gets bombarded, it will reach its resource usage limits. The other containers won’t be affected.
  • You have two containers that will each use 100% of the CPU time available. However, you want one to finish the job faster than the other. For example, one might render a video for a project that you need tomorrow. You can assign 90% of the CPU time to the first and 10% to the second.

Of course, you may have your own reasons. And if you’re only using one container on the whole system, you might not even need this. But if you’re using multiple containers, you almost always need to set some kinds of limits. Because, an attack, a bug, or some other form of misbehavior in one LXD instance can affect the whole system and slow it down. The more containers you have, the more the likelihood of such a scenario increases.

How to Set Resource Limits On LXD Containers

Resource control relating to disk operations will need ZFS to be installed. If you followed the tutorial here, it is already installed. Otherwise, install ZFS utilities as instructed in the tutorial and then rerun the command below. Pick ZFS when asked which storage backend to use.

sudo lxd init

Limit Memory Usage

In the commands below, replace “container_name” with the actual name of your container. Setting a memory limit is as simple as entering:

lxc config set container_name limits.memory 100MB

Type “GB” instead of “MB” if you want to use gigabytes instead of megabytes.

Limit CPU Usage

When you want to limit how many CPU cores a container can use, type:

lxc config set container_name limits.cpu 2

To “pin” to specific CPU cores, use:

lxc config set container_name limits.cpu 0-0

This would make the container only use the first CPU. To use the second, you would type 1-1. To use all CPU cores from first to third, you would type 0-3.

Another type of limit is how much CPU time a container can use.

lxc config set container_name limits.cpu.allowance 10ms/100ms

This would only let the container use ten miliseconds of CPU time out of every 100 miliseconds, so around 10% of one CPU core.

Limit Disk Usage

To limit disk-related resources, you must first add a root disk device to your container. It already exists by default, inherited from the default LXD profile. But you can’t change its settings on a per container basis until you do this.

lxc config device add container_name root disk pool=default path=/

If you named your pool differently, replace “default” with the name of your storage pool. If you forgot its name, you can display it with:

lxc storage list

To limit the disk space an LXD instance can use:

lxc config device set container_name root size 7GB

Unfortunately, I/O limits (read/write “speeds” and IOPS) don’t work at the moment.

Limit Network Usage

As with disks, you first have to add a virtual ethernet device that you can configure. Find the name of your network bridge that connects your LXD instances to the outside world.

lxc network list

Replace “lxdbr0” if necessary (if the bridge is named differently in your case). If you didn’t choose the network type as bridged (default answer), in the “lxd init” configuration steps you might have to adapt the command below to reflect your choice. For example, you might have to replace “nictype,” too, with whatever you used for your LXD network.

lxc config device add container_name eth0 nic name=eth0 nictype=bridged parent=lxdbr0

Finally, set limits on network ingress (download) and/or egress (upload).

lxc config device set container_name eth0 limits.ingress 1Mbit

1Mbit is one megabit (not megabyte). One byte contains 8 bits, which means this will limit downloads to around 1/8=0.125Mbits per second, roughly 120 kilobytes. So, if you want it to download with 1MB/s (megabyte), multiply by 8, and set the ingress limit to 8Mbit.

For egress, use:

lxc config device set container_name eth0 limits.egress 1Mbit


This covers the most commonly used properties relating to resource limits. But there are a lot more variables you can set with lxc config device set and lxc config set. You can read more about these adjustable container properties on LXD’s GitHub page.

Alexandru Andrei

Fell in love with computers when he was four years old. 27 years later, the passion is still burning, fueling constant learning. Spends most of his time in terminal windows and SSH sessions, managing Linux desktops and servers.

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