22.1 Understanding Compression

22.1.1 Compression and Decompression Processes

For each compressed volume, the file compression and decompression processes occur in the background as needed for each compressed volume, to support normal file access and immediate file compression settings. Scheduled compression occurs during a specified time each day. The scheduled period is usually set to non-peak hours, but it can be set for any time you prefer.

A file must be idle for the period specified in the Days Untouched before Compression parameter before it is considered eligible for a scheduled compression. During a scheduled compression, NSS evaluates file time stamps and all compression settings to determine which files qualify for compression. When NSS queues eligible files for compression, the compression process begins and handles as many compression tasks as it can in the available time. Any remaining files are queued for the next compression opportunity.

To minimize the impact of compression and decompression on system performance, you can limit the maximum number of concurrent process threads. The system queues the compression and decompression requests and then processes them as the threads become available.

NSS retains the uncompressed file during the compression process. Before NSS compresses a file, it verifies that the file system has enough space available for both the uncompressed file and the compressed file to temporarily coexist. If there is not enough space available, the file is not compressed. You must make free space available for the volume before the file can be opened. After the compression finishes successfully, NSS deletes the uncompressed file and keeps the compressed file. If error occurs during compression, NSS discards the compressed file and marks the uncompressed file with a Cannot Compress (Cc) attribute.

NSS does not attempt to compress a file while its Cc attribute is set to On. If the file is opened and saved, its Cc attribute is reset to Off. You can also run the Compfix utility to clear the Cc attribute. For more information, see Section 22.9, Repairing Compressed Volumes with the Compfix Utility.

22.1.2 Compression Settings

Although the cost of storage media is decreasing, you might consider compression to store more information on media where available space is limited. File compression requires configuration for the server level, for the volume, and optionally for individual directories and files.

Common Service Compression Parameters

At the server level, the settings for compression parameters in Common Services govern when and how compression works for the NSS volumes where the compression attribute is enabled. For information about these parameters, see Section 22.2, Configuring Compression for a Server.

The Volume’s Compression Attribute

The volume’s Compression attribute determines if its files can be compressed. You can enable the attribute when you create a new volume or add it at any time for an existing volume. After it is set, the Compression attribute persists for the life of the volume. For information about setting attributes for existing volumes, see Section 22.3, Configuring a Volume for Compression.

Compression Preferences for Directories and Files

For individual directories and files, you can optionally set compression preferences that allow file compression to occur immediately for specified files, regardless of the server’s compression parameters. You can also specify restrictions for individual files that make them ineligible for compression. For information about how to set compression preferences for individual directories and files, see Section 22.7, Configuring Compression Preferences for Directories and Files.

22.1.3 Guidelines for Compression

To effectively use compression for your NSS volumes, you must understand the following key concepts:

Some Volumes Are Not Good Candidates for Compression

Compression is not recommended for the sys: volume. Reserve compression for user data volumes.

You cannot use compression on an NSS volume on a CD or DVD drive.

After It Is Set, the Compression Attribute Persists for the Life of the Volume

The Compression attribute for a volume can be set when you create the NSS volume, or it can be set at any time thereafter. After you set the Compression attribute for a volume, you cannot turn it off; the parameter is in effect for the life of the volume.

You can suspend the compression activity, as needed, by using the Enable File Compression parameter. This parameter suspends compression for all volumes on the server. For information, see Section 22.4, Suspending Compression for Volumes or Files and Section 22.5, Disabling Compression for a Volume.

If you want to turn off file compression permanently, you must uncompress the data, back up the volume in its uncompressed state, then restore the uncompressed data to a new volume on which the Compression attribute is not set.

Inactivity Determines Which Files Are Eligible for Background Compression

NSS compresses files based on the interval of time that a file remains inactive. With background compression, files automatically pass in and out of their compressed state as they are unused and qualify for compression, then are accessed and uncompressed. It is not necessary to separate application files from data files for file compression. Most application files are used regularly and are not inactive long enough to qualify for compression.

Use the compression parameter named Days Untouched before Compression to set the length of the interval of inactivity. The parameter uses the date the file was last accessed for reading or writing to determine if a file is inactive, and therefore, eligible for compression.

To determine the optimal period of inactivity to use, consider the frequency of use of different types of files and your compression goals. Application files tend to be used more frequently, while user data is used less frequently. For example, the shorter the period of inactivity is, the higher the frequency of compression. The longer the period of inactivity is, the lower the frequency of compression, and the less likely it is that files are ever compressed.

If the volume is on a shared pool, its files might be queued for compression on one node, when its pool is cluster migrated or failed over to another node. The Compression Queue is non-persistent, so on the new node, the volume does not have information about the compression queue from the old node. Therefore, the files must re-qualify for compression when the Background Compression starts on the new node.

Some Files Do Not Compress Well

A file must be larger than 8 KB and smaller than 256 MB to be eligible for compression. The compression algorithm determines these limits.

To avoid the overhead of decompressing files that do not compress well, the system calculates the compressed size of a file before actually compressing it. If no disk space is saved by compression, or if the size difference does not meet the value specified by the set command’s Minimum Percentage Compression Gain parameter, the file is not compressed.

NSS does not compress NSS sparse files. A sparse file contains numerous contiguous zeros that NSS stores in a special way to conserve space. A sparse file’s logical size is larger than its physical disk usage. If a sparse file were compressed, it would actually consume more storage space than it normally does.

Some database files become unavailable when they are compressed, such as Sybase database files.

IMPORTANT:If you use Sybase database files in a volume, such as for ZENworks databases, do not enable compression on the volume, or mark each database file with the Don’t Compress (Dc) attribute so that it is never compressed even if compression is enabled for the volume. For details, see Technical Information Document 10075966.

Decompression Activity Depends on Available Space

Compressed files are uncompressed as they are needed, then remain uncompressed until they are inactive for a designated period. For a file to be uncompressed, there must be enough free space on the volume to accommodate the decompression process and the uncompressed file size.

Immediate Compression Impacts CPU Performance

Compression requires processor resources, memory resources, and hard disk space during the compression and decompression processes. Compression is usually a low-priority process thread because of compression’s impact on performance. If you flag many large files for immediate compression during peak system usage, CPU performance might deteriorate.

You can configure the server’s compression parameters to control how compression services use resources. For example, you can schedule compression to occur only during non-peak hours to free CPU resources during peak and normal hours. For information, see Section 22.2, Configuring Compression for a Server.

Files Remain Compressed during Backup and Restore

OES Storage Management Services (SMS) backs up and restores compressed files in their compressed state. It does not compress uncompressed files for backup; they are stored and restored in their uncompressed state. For more information, see Section 22.10, Backing Up Compressed Files.

22.1.4 Factors Affecting Compression

Typically, files that have been inactive for a specified period of time set in the Days Untouched before Compression parameter are eligible for compression.

The Immediate Compression attribute for a file or directory can also be used to identify files for compression:

  • Files residing in a directory marked for immediate compression

  • Files residing in subdirectories of a directory marked recursively for immediate compression

  • Individual files that are marked for immediate compression

Several factors prevent an uncompressed file from being compressed, even if it meets inactivity criteria:

22.1.5 Factors Affecting Decompression

Decompression occurs as needed to support file access, but other factors affect whether the uncompressed version or compressed version of the file remains in the volume after the access. The files remain compressed in the following cases:

  • The percentage of free disk space available on the volume is insufficient to allow a decompressed file to remain in its uncompressed state.

  • The Convert Compressed to Uncompressed Option parameter requires that compressed files always remain compressed.

  • The file was opened for the first time for viewing only and the Convert Compressed to Uncompressed Option parameter requires that the file must be opened at least twice for viewing or opened once for modification before the file remains uncompressed after access.

    Whenever you open a compressed file, NSS decompresses the file, but it keeps the compressed copy of the file while the file is open. The first time you open a compressed file for viewing only, NSS discards the decompressed copy of the file when you close the file. The compressed file remains on the system. If you open the file a second time for viewing only, the file is considered active. When you close the file, NSS keeps the uncompressed file and discards the compressed copy of the file. If you modify the file and save it, NSS saves the uncompressed file, then discards the compressed file.

22.1.6 Monitoring Compression Activity

Monitor compression activity using the nss /compscreen command. For instructions, see Section 22.8, Using NSS Commands to Configure and Monitor Compression.