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Index Compression Part II (Down Is The New Up) February 20, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Index Compression, Oracle Cost Based Optimizer, Oracle General, Oracle Indexes, Performance Tuning.

Compression can be very beneficial when the compressed columns of an index have many repeated values within a leaf block as these repeated values are only stored once and subsequently referred to within the index row entries themselves.

However, when the leading column is very selective or the compressed columns are very selective and have very few or possibly no repeating values in an index, then we have a problem.

In these scenarios, Oracle will create a massive prefix table, housing most if not all the individual column values anyways, as the prefix table stores all unique combinations of compressed column values within a leaf block.

The index row entries will point or refer to a prefix entry which is hardly shared (if at all) by other index row entries.

Compression in these cases is not only pointless but potentially worse than pointless as we now not only have to store a similar amount of index column data anyways, but additional compression related overheads such as those associated with the prefix table entries.

Net result can be no effective compression or indeed leaf blocks that can no longer store as many index values due to these associated compression overheads, resulting in indexes increasing rather than decreasing in size as a consequence.

For concatenated, multi-column indexes, the order of the indexed columns can make a huge difference to the compression of an index. If the leading column or columns (depending on how many columns are compressed) have many repeated column value combinations, not a problem as compression will be effective.

However if the leading column is very selective, then compression by definition will be ineffective, as there must be many distinct column values in the prefix table as a result which are less likely to shared by the index row entries.

For compression to be effective, the prefix table should have considerably fewer entries than index row entries in most leaf blocks. If there are approximately (say) 200 index entries per no-compressed leaf block, you want the number of distinct column combinations within the leaf block to be substantially less than 200.

For index compression to be feasible, ensure low cardinality columns are the leading columns in a concatenated index, else compression may be futile or worse.

See this demo on Index Compression Part II to see how compressing an index can be either effective or plain terrible and how the order of columns in a concatenated index can make all the difference to the effectiveness of index compression.

Next I’ll cover index compression with Unique Indexes …