6

Postgres seems to do some sort of compression on array values. I have a table with 2.1 million rows, each has 2 columns of smallint arrays, all populated with 1440 values. most of these values are -32768. I was very surprised to see that the entire table, about 6 billion smallints, was only 540MB on disk. I did an experiment and it looks like Postgres is doing some kind of compression.

With 1000 smallints from 1 to 1000, pg_column_size returns 2048. An array of 1000 smallints, all -32768, pg_column_size returns 74. An array of 1000 smallints, alternating 1 & 0, pg_column_size returns 73.

Is this documented anywhere?

CREATE TABLE testing (
  values smallint[]
);

SELECT pg_table_size('testing');

SELECT pg_column_size(testing.*) FROM testing
-- 1,2,3,...,1000
INSERT INTO testing VALUES(
'{1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67,68,69,70,71,72,73,74,75,76,77,78,79,80,81,82,83,84,85,86,87,88,89,90,91,92,93,94,95,96,97,98,99,100,101,102,103,104,105,106,107,108,109,110,111,112,113,114,115,116,117,118,119,120,121,122,123,124,125,126,127,128,129,130,131,132,133,134,135,136,137,138,139,140,141,142,143,144,145,146,147,148,149,150,151,152,153,154,155,156,157,158,159,160,161,162,163,164,165,166,167,168,169,170,171,172,173,174,175,176,177,178,179,180,181,182,183,184,185,186,187,188,189,190,191,192,193,194,195,196,197,198,199,200,201,202,203,204,205,206,207,208,209,210,211,212,213,214,215,216,217,218,219,220,221,222,223,224,225,226,227,228,229,230,231,232,233,234,235,236,237,238,239,240,241,242,243,244,245,246,247,248,249,250,251,252,253,254,255,256,257,258,259,260,261,262,263,264,265,266,267,268,269,270,271,272,273,274,275,276,277,278,279,280,281,282,283,284,285,286,287,288,289,290,291,292,293,294,295,296,297,298,299,300,301,302,303,304,305,306,307,308,309,310,311,312,313,314,315,316,317,318,319,320,321,322,323,324,325,326,327,328,329,330,331,332,333,334,335,336,337,338,339,340,341,342,343,344,345,346,347,348,349,350,351,352,353,354,355,356,357,358,359,360,361,362,363,364,365,366,367,368,369,370,371,372,373,374,375,376,377,378,379,380,381,382,383,384,385,386,387,388,389,390,391,392,393,394,395,396,397,398,399,400,401,402,403,404,405,406,407,408,409,410,411,412,413,414,415,416,417,418,419,420,421,422,423,424,425,426,427,428,429,430,431,432,433,434,435,436,437,438,439,440,441,442,443,444,445,446,447,448,449,450,451,452,453,454,455,456,457,458,459,460,461,462,463,464,465,466,467,468,469,470,471,472,473,474,475,476,477,478,479,480,481,482,483,484,485,486,487,488,489,490,491,492,493,494,495,496,497,498,499,500,501,502,503,504,505,506,507,508,509,510,511,512,513,514,515,516,517,518,519,520,521,522,523,524,525,526,527,528,529,530,531,532,533,534,535,536,537,538,539,540,541,542,543,544,545,546,547,548,549,550,551,552,553,554,555,556,557,558,559,560,561,562,563,564,565,566,567,568,569,570,571,572,573,574,575,576,577,578,579,580,581,582,583,584,585,586,587,588,589,590,591,592,593,594,595,596,597,598,599,600,601,602,603,604,605,606,607,608,609,610,611,612,613,614,615,616,617,618,619,620,621,622,623,624,625,626,627,628,629,630,631,632,633,634,635,636,637,638,639,640,641,642,643,644,645,646,647,648,649,650,651,652,653,654,655,656,657,658,659,660,661,662,663,664,665,666,667,668,669,670,671,672,673,674,675,676,677,678,679,680,681,682,683,684,685,686,687,688,689,690,691,692,693,694,695,696,697,698,699,700,701,702,703,704,705,706,707,708,709,710,711,712,713,714,715,716,717,718,719,720,721,722,723,724,725,726,727,728,729,730,731,732,733,734,735,736,737,738,739,740,741,742,743,744,745,746,747,748,749,750,751,752,753,754,755,756,757,758,759,760,761,762,763,764,765,766,767,768,769,770,771,772,773,774,775,776,777,778,779,780,781,782,783,784,785,786,787,788,789,790,791,792,793,794,795,796,797,798,799,800,801,802,803,804,805,806,807,808,809,810,811,812,813,814,815,816,817,818,819,820,821,822,823,824,825,826,827,828,829,830,831,832,833,834,835,836,837,838,839,840,841,842,843,844,845,846,847,848,849,850,851,852,853,854,855,856,857,858,859,860,861,862,863,864,865,866,867,868,869,870,871,872,873,874,875,876,877,878,879,880,881,882,883,884,885,886,887,888,889,890,891,892,893,894,895,896,897,898,899,900,901,902,903,904,905,906,907,908,909,910,911,912,913,914,915,916,917,918,919,920,921,922,923,924,925,926,927,928,929,930,931,932,933,934,935,936,937,938,939,940,941,942,943,944,945,946,947,948,949,950,951,952,953,954,955,956,957,958,959,960,961,962,963,964,965,966,967,968,969,970,971,972,973,974,975,976,977,978,979,980,981,982,983,984,985,986,987,988,989,990,991,992,993,994,995,996,997,998,999,1000}' );

SELECT pg_column_size(testing.*) FROM testing;
TRUNCATE TABLE testing;
-- 1000 identical values
INSERT INTO testing VALUES (
'{-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768,-32768}');

SELECT pg_column_size(testing.*) FROM testing

edit: I don't think this is TOAST, when query the table, the Toast Blocks read/hit and Toast Index blocks read/hit all stay at 0.

edit: It's in-line TOAST, I didn't realise that was a thing

8
  • 4
    postgresql.org/docs/current/static/storage-toast.html
    – user1822
    Feb 8, 2017 at 22:02
  • reported toast size on my large table is 8kB, each row should be much less than the PG page size Feb 8, 2017 at 22:03
  • 3
    The threshold when values are TOASTed is 2000 bytes, not the page size
    – user1822
    Feb 8, 2017 at 22:05
  • 3
    "Postgres seems to do some sort of compression on array values" - yes that's TOAST
    – user1822
    Feb 8, 2017 at 22:27
  • 3
    Your example only inserts a single row not 4 million. But TOAST can also store the compressed data inline it's not necessary stored in the toast table (this is all explained in the link from my first comment)
    – user1822
    Feb 8, 2017 at 22:46

2 Answers 2

2

Internal representation of larger attributes will be sometimes compressed. More specifically, what works here is the TOAST (Oversized Attribute Storage component used in PostgreSQL). The threshold when values are considered for compression is 2000 bytes.

pg_column_size() is not a logical length, but the size (in bytes) of actual internal representation of the column/variable. It is documented.

PostgreSQL stores array values in a custom, internal, binary format. Command line example below. Details also here.

filip=# CREATE TABLE a(x text, a text[][]);
CREATE TABLE
filip=# insert into a select 'MARK', '{{ENE,DUE},{LIKE,FAKE}}';
INSERT 0 1
filip=# insert into a select 'MARK', '{{ENE,DUE},{LIKE,FAKE}}';
INSERT 0 1
filip=# checkpoint ;
CHECKPOINT
filip=# SELECT pg_relation_filepath('a');
 pg_relation_filepath 
----------------------
 base/16385/16576
(1 row)

filip@szary:~$ sudo hexdump -C ~postgres/9.5/main/base/16385/16576
00000000  00 00 00 00 f0 99 b6 02  00 00 00 00 20 00 40 1f  |............ .@.|
00000010  00 20 04 20 00 00 00 00  a0 9f b4 00 40 9f b4 00  |. . ........@...|
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00001f40  c8 07 08 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00001f50  02 00 02 00 02 08 18 00  0b 4d 41 52 4b 7b 02 00  |.........MARK{..|
00001f60  00 00 00 00 00 00 19 00  00 00 02 00 00 00 02 00  |................|
00001f70  00 00 01 00 00 00 01 00  00 00 1c 00 00 00 45 4e  |..............EN|
00001f80  45 00 1c 00 00 00 44 55  45 00 20 00 00 00 4c 49  |E.....DUE. ...LI|
00001f90  4b 45 20 00 00 00 46 41  4b 45 00 00 00 00 00 00  |KE ...FAKE......|
00001fa0  c7 07 08 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00001fb0  01 00 02 00 02 08 18 00  0b 4d 41 52 4b 7b 02 00  |.........MARK{..|
00001fc0  00 00 00 00 00 00 19 00  00 00 02 00 00 00 02 00  |................|
00001fd0  00 00 01 00 00 00 01 00  00 00 1c 00 00 00 45 4e  |..............EN|
00001fe0  45 00 1c 00 00 00 44 55  45 00 20 00 00 00 4c 49  |E.....DUE. ...LI|
00001ff0  4b 45 20 00 00 00 46 41  4b 45 00 00 00 00 00 00  |KE ...FAKE......|
00002000

answer written by @filiprem acting to extend basic info provided by @a-horse-with-no-name

0

It's actually described here in detail.

 * A standard varlena array has the following internal structure:
 *    <vl_len_>     - standard varlena header word
 *    <ndim>        - number of dimensions of the array
 *    <dataoffset>  - offset to stored data, or 0 if no nulls bitmap
 *    <elemtype>    - element type OID
 *    <dimensions>  - length of each array axis (C array of int)
 *    <lower bnds>  - lower boundary of each dimension (C array of int)
 *    <null bitmap> - bitmap showing locations of nulls (OPTIONAL)
 *    <actual data> - whatever is the stored data
 *
 * The <dimensions> and <lower bnds> arrays each have ndim elements.
 *
 * The <null bitmap> may be omitted if the array contains no NULL elements.

That's the bytes actually stored on disk page.

2
  • No it's not, at least if the column is toasted. As your link says, "it seems preferable to store such items uncompressed and allow the toaster to compress the whole array as one input".
    – mustaccio
    Aug 22, 2023 at 21:09
  • Toast kicks in for cells of >2000 bytes long. Actually the toasting machinery is even more complicated. It decodes the array interleaving nulls in ther proper positions and creates a continous representation in memory, then it replaces the pointer in buffer with the decoded one. This saves a lot of time decoding the arrays. Aug 26, 2023 at 20:08

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