Some operating systems implement compression at the file system level. Files are typically divided into fixed-size blocks that are compressed into variable-size blocks, which easily leads into fragmentation. Every time something inside a block is modified, the whole block is recompressed before it is written to disk. These properties make this compression technique unsuitable for use in an update-intensive database system.
The InnoDB storage engine implements a novel type of compression with the help of the well-known zlib library, which implements the LZ77 compression algorithm. This compression algorithm is mature, robust, and efficient in both CPU utilization and in reduction of data size. The algorithm is “lossless”, so that the original uncompressed data can always be reconstructed from the compressed form. LZ77 compression works by finding sequences of data that are repeated within the data to be compressed. The patterns of values in your data determine how well it compresses, but typical user data often compresses by 50% or more.
Unlike compression performed by an application, or compression features of some other database management systems, InnoDB compression applies both to user data and to indexes. In many cases, indexes can constitute 40-50% or more of the total database size, so this difference is significant. When compression is working well for a data set, the size of the InnoDB data files (the .idb files) is 25% to 50% of the uncompressed size or possibly smaller. Depending on the workload, this smaller database can in turn lead to a reduction in I/O, and an increase in throughput, at a modest cost in terms of increased CPU utilization.
This is the User’s Guide for InnoDB storage engine 1.1 for MySQL 5.5, generated on 2010-04-13 (revision: 19994) .