14.7.1 Overview of Table Compression

Because processors and cache memories have increased in speed more than disk storage devices, many workloads are disk-bound. Data compression enables smaller database size, reduced I/O, and improved throughput, at the small cost of increased CPU utilization. Compression is especially valuable for read-intensive applications, on systems with enough RAM to keep frequently used data in memory.

An InnoDB table created with ROW_FORMAT=COMPRESSED can use a smaller page size on disk than the usual 16KB default. Smaller pages require less I/O to read from and write to disk, which is especially valuable for SSD devices.

The page size is specified through the KEY_BLOCK_SIZE parameter. The different page size means the table must be in its own .ibd file rather than in the system tablespace, which requires enabling the innodb_file_per_table option. The level of compression is the same regardless of the KEY_BLOCK_SIZE value. As you specify smaller values for KEY_BLOCK_SIZE, you get the I/O benefits of increasingly smaller pages. But if you specify a value that is too small, there is additional overhead to reorganize the pages when data values cannot be compressed enough to fit multiple rows in each page. There is a hard limit on how small KEY_BLOCK_SIZE can be for a table, based on the lengths of the key columns for each of its indexes. Specify a value that is too small, and the CREATE TABLE or ALTER TABLE statement fails.

In the buffer pool, the compressed data is held in small pages, with a page size based on the KEY_BLOCK_SIZE value. For extracting or updating the column values, MySQL also creates a 16KB page in the buffer pool with the uncompressed data. Within the buffer pool, any updates to the uncompressed page are also re-written back to the equivalent compressed page. You might need to size your buffer pool to accommodate the additional data of both compressed and uncompressed pages, although the uncompressed pages are evicted from the buffer pool when space is needed, and then uncompressed again on the next access.