Columnstore Indexes – part 3 (“More Internals”)

This is the third in the series dedicated to the Clustered Columnstore Indexes.
The first part can be found here –, while the whole series can be found at
This blogpost is continuing focusing on the part of the internals of the Clustered Columnstore Indexes.

Memory Consumption:
If you have ever read about NonClustered Columnstore Indexes for SQL Server 2012, then you surely know that the process of the creation and rebuild is extremely resource intensive.
According to Microsoft, they have implemented an improvement over memory consumption for SQL Server 2014, and so besides traditional control wit the use of DOP (Degree of Parallelism), we can expect that internally the actual DOP will be varying as the SQL Server might be changing the memory consumption based on the currently available resources. This means that some of the threads might even be put on hold, in order to keep the system stable.

Archival Compression:
A lot of times in the DatawareHousing environments there are subsets of data which are rarely accessed (historic data), but which keeps occupying rather significant amount of space.
SQL Server 2014 will introduce a new compression mode for the Columnstore Indexes to address this situation, which is called Archival Compression. This mode introduces an additional layer compression layer, on the top of the compression already made. It works transparently by compressing the data blobs before storing on the disk.
The algorithm used for compression is a XPress8 (which is a Microsoft internal variant of LZ77 compression created in the 1970s). Designed to work with multiple threads in the same time, it uses data streams up to 64KB in size.
This should add around 30% improvement over the traditional Columnstore Compression.
Note: Compression can be applied on a partition level and thus can guarantee that we apply this method only to the most-rarely accessed data. The compression type can be easily changed at the Rebuild time.

Some of the columns inside of the Columnstore Index might be using Dictionaries encoding in order to improve compression. There are 2 types of the dictionaries: Local & Global
– Local dictionary is used inside of the same Segment.
– Global which is applied across all Segments. The more relevant data is stored in Global dictionary, the more compression effect can be achieved across the Columnstore Index.
Note: If the Global Dictionary is 100% relevant it might eliminate the need for any potential Local dictionary.
Note: Data is never sorted inside of a Segment.
After encoding and compression phases are finished, dictionaries are stored as Blobs on the disk by using good old 8k pages mechanism. The ids which are being used for the mapping of the dictionary values are 32 bits.
In SQL Server 2014 the whole process of building Global Dictionary is revamped. The data is first sample across all Segments for all the columns that requires a dictionary and based on that analysis that the Global Dictionary is created.

Sampled Statistics:
SQL Server Query Optimizer uses statistics in order to create a query execution plan and the basics about it are to be found everywhere in the internet. For NonClustered Columnstore Indexes there were no implementation for the Sampling of the statistics – it makes a kind of sense, since there were no updates allowed.
Clustered Columnstore Indexes are different, very different – they have 2 different sampling algorithms:
– the first one is focused on the accuracy, while spending more IO & CPU resources. This algorithm will scan each and every Segment as well as Delta Store and then randomly selecting some subset of the rows. This algorithm is supposed to produce a more accurate histogram when comparing to Page sampling.
– the second one is targeting performance while relaxing some of the accuracy. This one is using cluster sampling, by selecting some random rows within each of the cluster group (the number is controlled by the sampling percentage). This algorithm might scan just some of the Segments and Delta Stores, while completely ignoring the others. This algorithm is used to help with dictionary creation and never for the build of the histogram.

Clustered Columnstore Indexes will be introducing support for the Bookmarks inside of the Columnstore Index. It is important to remember that there is no unique key inside of a Columnstore Index, that identifies a row, the new Bookmarks is actually composed out of following combination:
So basically the Segment_Id is not stored, since it is implicit when accessing the data inside of the Segment, and then the Tuple_Id inside of the Segment is simply is the locator for finding the tuple in question.
For the cases when we are talking about the b-tree storage (such as for Delta Stores and Deleted Bitmaps), the heap bookmark is represented by the following combination: file_id:page_id:slot_id.
I see a lot of important uses for a Bookmark – Lookups (aka Seeks), deletes (using Deleted Bitmap), updates, etc, and so this is one of the functionalities that could not be missed.

to be continued with Clustered Columnstore Indexes – part 4 (“Basic T-SQL”)

11 thoughts on “Columnstore Indexes – part 3 (“More Internals”)

  1. Pingback: Clustered Columnstore Indexes – part 1 (“Intro”) | Nikoport

    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi, regarding your questions:
      – I hope that bookmark lookups will be in the version after SQL Server 2014. It is not easy to implement a way to reach a single row without doing a lot of work with CPU.

      – On the matter of the other indexes existence – it would imply the synchronization between Row Store & Column Store, which is a tricky thing. One can easily update a row in a Row Store with just a couple of rights, but in the case of the Columnstore one would be required to update Deleted Bitmap and to insert new data into one of the Delta Stores. I expect a solution to come in a version after SQL Server 2014.

  2. Fred12

    “So basically the Segment_Id is not stored, since it is implicit when accessing the data inside of the Segment, and then the Tuple_Id inside of the”

    can u please complete this sentence ? would be interested to know in detail how this works.

      1. Fred12

        I have another question, the columnstore is not sorted in any way I guess.. its just ordered in the way that compression works fine..

        so my question is: how does it find range values of rows, if I want to find lets say person size < 1,80 or so….. how does it find/filter me the corresponding rows if its not sorted in that way?

        1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

          Hi Fred,

          Query Optimiser uses the sys.column_store_segments DMV, consulting the min_data_id & max_data_id values for each of the compressed Segments, thus deciding if the Segment should be processed or not.
          Once the used predicate points to the values inside of some segment Segment, it will be scanned for the searched information.

          Best regards,
          Niko Neugebauer

          1. Fred12

            ok, but what values are inside the min_data_id & max_data_id ?
            lets say I have a date time, ok then its a numbering, if I have a char or string values, what are the max / min values if its not sorted in some way?
            and If I built a clustered CI for all columns, what values or columns are the min/max values composed of?
            and if I have a nonclustered CI, does it make the min/max values from all columns in the NCI as a composed value, or just of some specific columns?

          2. Niko Neugebauer Post author

            Hi Fred,

            my understanding is that it has to do with a combination of data type, encoding_type, primary & secondary dictionaries – all found in sys.column_store_segments.
            This information decompressed is handled internally so basically information that we see makes no sense to human, because of the used encoding.

            It would be quite interesting to dig into the dictionary to find out a way to identify each Segment limits, but doing so might take a significant time, with no guarantees, as I imagine using DBCC CSIndex together with Segment elimination queries to prove the found information.

    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi Martin,

      I have replied to you on the posted question. Seems like an over optimisation for the single-column table and 64 KB dictionaries to me.
      A possible solution would be to add another column.

      Best regards,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *