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Index Compression Part III (2+2=5) February 22, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Index Compression, Index Internals, Oracle General, Oracle Indexes, Performance Tuning.
1 comment so far

As previously discussed, compression is only beneficial when the compressed columns have repeated values within an index leaf block. If a compressed column has repeated values, Oracle will basically store the one copy of the compressed column (or columns) as a prefix entry within a leaf block and each index row entry will then be associated with its corresponding prefix entry.

That being the case, it makes no sense in compressing a single column Unique index. Each index entry must be unique, there can’t be any repeatable, duplicate column values. Therefore compression will be not only totally ineffective, but would actually result in an index structure that increases rather than decreases in size due to the extra overheads associated with having a prefix index entry for each and every index row entry.

It also makes no sense in compressing every column in a concatenated, multi-column Unique index. For exactly the same reasons. Each compressed index column combination must be unique and would result in a prefix entry for each and every index row entry. Compression would be worse than useless and result in an increased index structure.

However, Oracle does its best to protect ourselves from ourselves.

For a start, it does not allow one to create a compressed index on a single column Unique index. Attempt to do so and Oracle generates an “ORA-25193: cannot use COMPRESS option for a single column key”. Hey, even the error message is nice and meaningful.

If the Unique index has multiple columns, the default prefix length value (number of compressed columns) is the number of indexed columns minus one, not all columns as it is for a Non-Unique index. See, Oracle is doing its best here to prevent a useless attempt at index compression.

If you specify a prefix length value equal or greater than the number of columns in a Unique index, Oracle generates an “ORA-25194: invalid COMPRESS prefix length value”. These are not restrictions but designed to stop the creation of inefficient compressed indexes.

Note however that Non-Unique indexes can be used to police primary Key (PK) and Unique Key (UK) constraints. I’ve discussed all this previously. The constraints might be Unique, the data might be unique but the index is Non-Unique and so these “protections” fly out the window. There is nothing stopping one creating a single column compressed Non-Unique index to police a PK or UK constraint. There’s nothing preventing you from creating a concatenated, Non-Unique index with all columns compressed, from policing a PK or UK constraint. In fact, you can even create a fully compressed Non-Unique index at the same time as the PK or UK constraint with Oracle’s extended constraint and index creation syntax.

Nothing stopping you, except perhaps the realisation that it would be a very bad and futile thing to implement as the resultant index will be guaranteed to be less efficient than an equivalent nocompress index.

Yes, it might make sense to compress just the leading columns of a Unique index or a Non-Unique index that’s policing a PK or UK constraint, if such leading columns have sufficient repeating values to make compression effective. But it would simply not make sense to compress all columns from such indexes.

See this demo Index Compression Part III on how compression works and doesn’t work for Unique Indexes.

In Part IV, we’ll look at the issue of what specific columns might benefit from compression and look a little closer at how storage is actually saved.

Whoever said there can’t possibly be enough things to discuss on a Blog that focuses mainly on Oracle indexes 😉