SQL Server 2008 Database Compression

Here are some notes on “SQL Server 2008 Database Compression” I took while attending an advanced class on SQL Server taught by Greg Low (from http://sqlblog.com/blogs/greg_low/ and http://www.sqldownunder.com/).

Please note that, although these notes were taken during the class, I might have added some of my own (mis)interpretation :-). Always check your facts on Books Online (I try to provide links when applicable). As with anything else you get from a blog, never use any of this in production before you thoroughly validate it a test environment. Please keep in mind that some of those will be hard to follow without some pre-requisite knowledge and the right context. Reading the post from top to bottom will help.

Database Compression

  • Databases are typically fairly compressible
  • Things to consider: storage Cost, workload performance, backups
  • Migration – when source database was already compressed
  • NTFS Compression – data is not compressed in memory

SQL Server 2008 compression

  • Data stored more efficiently on the page
  • Can improve performance if workload is I/O bound
  • Can decrease performance if workload is CPU bound
  • You will end up with a lot more rows in memory, because more will fit on a page
  • It’s counter-intuitive: Typically things get faster, not slower (boxes are I/O bound, not CPU bound)
  • Careful – Index rebuild times will go up


  • Enterprise Edition, enable for ROW or PAGE (which includes ROW)
  • ROW: Variable length encoding: numeric, char, NULLs, zeros
  • Discussion: When does it make sense to use VARCHAR(2)? 
  • Discussion: How about NVARCHAR vs. VARCHAR?
  • PAGE: Column prefix, page dictionary (in addition to what ROW does)

When does it happen 

  • When you enable compression, pages are not immediately compressed. REBUILD will force.
  • After enabled, row compression will happened when rows ar inserted or updated.
  • Page compression done before a page split (since it would be expensive). FILLFACTOR  is important.
  • If you enable for PAGE and don’t rebuild, over time, you will end up with a mix of NONE/ROW/PAGE in the actual database
  • Non-leaf pages are not compressed.
  • Careful – Page compression on frequently updated tables
  • BLOB: not row-compressed, can be page-compressed if in-row
  • Backup: Pages go to backup as they are. Additional (?!), more aggressive (?!) compression during backup
  • See http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc280449.aspx

Compression – How to

Additional notes from a previous blog post:

Comments (1)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I took some advanced SQL Server 2008 classes recently and shared my notes in a series of blog posts.