Compression in kdb+

Technical Whitepaper


Eoin Killeen is based in New York. Eoin has worked as a kdb+ consultant on the design and development of a wide range of high-performance trading and analytics applications. He is currently working on a global real-time electronic trading visualization platform and an equity derivatives analytics portal at a US investment bank.


As the rate of data generation in financial markets continues to increase, there is a strong impetus to investigate how large data volumes can be more efficiently processed. Even if disk is considered cheap, it can be a valuable exercise for many applications to determine what improvements can be gleaned from an analysis of the use of compression. Aside from reduced disk costs, some use cases can gain significant performance improvements through a problem-specific approach to compression. For example, some systems have fast CPUs, but find that disk i/o is a bottleneck. In some such cases, utilizing CPU power to reduce the amount of data being sent to disk can improve overall performance.

Prior to kdb+ version 2.7, compression was achieved via file systems with inbuilt compression, such as ZFS. Version 2.7 introduced built-in OS-agnostic compression, which allowed on-disk data to be converted to compressed format using a range of algorithms and compression levels. This was expanded upon in version 2.8, with the addition of the ability to stream in-memory data directly to compressed format on disk. ZFS compression is still useful for some kdb+ applications, as it keeps cached data available for multiple processes. However, this paper will focus on the inbuilt data compression options provided by kdb+, which are available on all supported architectures.

Each system will have its own characteristics which determine the appropriate compression configurations to use. This paper will cover an introduction to compression in kdb+, a discussion of contributing factors to compression ratios and performance, and an analysis of how the use of compressed data can affect performance of some sample use cases.

All tests were run using kdb+ version 3.1 (2013.09.05)

Download white paper: .PDF

Sponsored by KX Systems

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