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Row Compression Implementation

This topic summarizes how Database Engine implements row compression. This summary provides basic information to help you plan the storage space that you need for your data.

Enabling compression only changes the physical storage format of the data that is associated with a data type but not its syntax or semantics. Application changes are not required when one or more tables are enabled for compression. The new record storage format has the following main changes:

  • It reduces the metadata overhead that is associated with the record. This metadata is information about columns, their lengths and offsets. In some cases, the metadata overhead might be larger than the old storage format.

  • It uses variable-length storage format for numeric types (for example integer, decimal, and float) and the types that are based on numeric (for example datetime and money).

  • It stores fixed character strings by using variable-length format by not storing the blank characters.

Note Note

NULL and 0 values across all data types are optimized and take no bytes.

The following table describes how row compression affects the existing types in SQL Server. The table does not include the savings that can be achieved by using page compression.

Data type

Is storage affected?

Description

tinyint

No

1 byte is the minimum storage needed.

smallint

Yes

If the value fits in 1 byte, only 1 byte will be used.

int

Yes

Uses only the bytes that are needed. For example, if a value can be stored in 1 byte, storage will take only 1 byte.

bigint

Yes

Uses only the bytes that are needed. For example, if a value can be stored in 1 byte, storage will take only 1 byte.

decimal

Yes

This storage is exactly same as the vardecimal storage format.

numeric

Yes

This storage is exactly same as the vardecimal storage format.

bit

Yes

The metadata overhead brings this to 4 bits.

smallmoney

Yes

Uses the integer data representation by using a 4-byte integer. Currency value is multiplied by 10000 and the resulting integer value is stored by removing any digits after the decimal point. This type has a storage optimization similar to that for integer types.

money

Yes

Uses the integer data representation by using an 8-byte integer. Currency value is multiplied by 10000 and the resulting integer value is stored by removing any digits after the decimal point. This type has a larger range than smallmoney. This type has a storage optimization similar to that for integer types.

float

Yes

Least significant bytes with zeros are not stored. float compression is applicable mostly for nonfractional values in mantissa.

real

Yes

Least significant bytes with zeros are not stored. real compression is applicable mostly for nonfractional values in mantissa.

smalldatetime

No

Uses the integer data representation by using two 2-byte integers. The date takes 2 bytes. It is the number of days since 1/1/1901. This needs 2 bytes starting from 1902. Therefore, there is no savings after that point.

The time is the number of minutes since midnight. Time values that are slightly past 4AM start to use the second byte.

If a smalldatetime is only used to represent a date (a common case), the time is 0.0. Compression saves 2 bytes by storing the time in most significant byte format for row compression.

datetime

Yes

Uses the integer data representation by using two 4-byte integers. The integer value represents the number of days with base date of 1/1/1900. The first 2 bytes can represent up to the year 2079. Compression can always save 2 bytes here until that point. Each integer value represents 3.33 milliseconds. Compression exhausts the first 2 bytes in first five minutes and needs the fourth byte after 4PM. Therefore, compression can save only 1 byte after 4PM. When datetime is compressed like any other integer, compression saves 2 bytes in the date.

date

No

Uses the integer data representation by using 3 bytes. This represents the date from 1/1/0001. For contemporary dates, row compression uses all 3 bytes. This achieves no savings.

time

No

Uses the integer data representation by using 3 to 6 bytes. There are various precisions that start with 0 to 9 that can take 3 to 6 bytes. Compressed space is used as follows:

  • Precision = 0. Bytes = 3. Each integer value represents a second. Compression can represent time up to 6PM by using 2 bytes, potentially saving 1 byte.

  • Precision = 1. Bytes = 3. Each integer value represents 1/10 seconds. Compression uses the third byte before 2AM. Results in little savings.

  • Precision = 2. Bytes = 3. Similar to the previous case, it is unlikely to achieve savings.

  • Precision = 3. Bytes = 4. Because the first 3 bytes are taken by 5AM, achieves little savings.

  • Precision = 4. Bytes = 4. The first 3 bytes are taken in the first 27 seconds. No savings are expected.

  • Precision = 5, Bytes = 5. Fifth byte will be used after 12-noon.

  • Precision = 6 and 7, Bytes = 5. Achieves no savings.

  • Precision = 8, Bytes = 6. Sixth byte will be used after 3AM.

There is no change in storage for row compression. Overall, not much savings can be expected from compressing the time data type.

datetime2

Yes

Uses the integer data representation by using 6 to 9 bytes. The first 4 bytes represent the date. The bytes taken by the time will depend on the precision of the time that is specified.

The integer value represents the number of days since 1/1/0001 with an upper bound of 12/31/9999. To represent a date in year 2005, compression takes 3 bytes.

There is no savings on time because it allows for 2 to 4 bytes for various time precisions. Therefore, for one-second time precision, compression uses 2 bytes for time, which takes the second byte after 255 seconds.

datetimeoffset

Yes

Resembles datetime2, except that there are 2 bytes of time zone of the format (HH:MM).

Like datetime2, compression can save 2 bytes.

For time zone values, MM value might be 0 for most cases. Therefore, compression can possibly save 1 byte.

There are no changes in storage for row compression.

char

Yes

Trailing padding characters are removed. Note that the Database Engine inserts the same padding character regardless of the collation that is used.

varchar

No

No effect.

text

No

No effect.

nchar

Yes

Trailing padding characters are removed. Note that the Database Engine inserts the same padding character regardless of the collation that is used.

nvarchar

No

No effect.

ntext

No

No effect.

binary

Yes

Trailing zeros are removed.

varbinary

No

No effect.

image

No

No effect.

cursor

No

No effect.

timestamp / rowversion

Yes

Uses the integer data representation by using 8 bytes. There is a timestamp counter that is maintained for each database, and its value starts from 0. This can be compressed like any other integer value.

sql_variant

No

No effect.

uniqueidentifier

No

No effect.

table

No

No effect.

xml

No

No effect.

User-defined types

No

This is represented internally as varbinary.

FILESTREAM

No

This is represented internally as varbinary.

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