Dynamic dictionary compression algorithms have trouble compressing small data. With default usage, the compression dictionary starts off empty and is constructed during a single pass over the input data. Thus small input leads to a small dictionary, which cannot achieve good compression ratios.

In RocksDB, each block in a block-based table (SST file) is compressed individually. Block size defaults to 4KB, from which the compression algorithm cannot build a sizable dictionary. The dictionary compression feature presets the dictionary with data sampled from multiple blocks, which improves compression ratio when there are repetitions across blocks.


Set rocksdb::CompressionOptions::max_dict_bytes (in include/rocksdb/options.h) to a nonzero value indicating the maximum per-file dictionary size.

Also rocksdb::CompressionOptions::zstd_max_train_bytes may be used to generate a training dictionary of max bytes for ZStd compression. Using ZStd’s dictionary trainer can achieve even better compression ratio improvements than using max_dict_bytes alone. The training data will be used to generate a dictionary of max_dict_bytes.


Dictionary compression is only implemented for the bottom-most level. The dictionary will be constructed for each SST file in a subcompaction by sampling entire data blocks in the file. When dictionary compression is enabled, the uncompressed data blocks in the file being generated will be buffered in memory, upto target_file_size bytes. Once the limit is reached, or the file is finished, data blocks are taken uniformly/randomly from the buffered data blocks and used to train the ZStd dictionary trainer.

The dictionary is stored in the file’s meta-block in order for it to be known when uncompressing. During reads, if BlockBasedTableOptions::cache_index_and_filter_blocks is false, the dictionary meta-block is read and pinned in memory but not charged to the block cache. If it is true, the dictionary meta-block is cached in the block cache, with high priority if cache_index_and_filter_blocks_with_high_priority is true, and with low priority otherwise. As for prefetching and pinning the dictionary meta-block in the cache, the behavior depends on the RocksDB version. In RocksDB versions lower than 6.4, the dictionary meta-block is not prefetched or pinned in the cache, unlike index and filter blocks. Starting RocksDB version 6.4, the dictionary meta-block is prefetched and pinned in the block cache the same way as index/filter blocks (for instance, setting pin_l0_filter_and_index_blocks_in_cache to true results in the dictionary meta-block getting pinned as well for L0 files).

The in-memory uncompression dictionary is a digested form of the raw dictionary stored on disk, and is larger in size. The digested form makes uncompression faster, but does consume more memory.


  • Applies only to bottommost level