Oracle Data Pump and Compression – Also Without a License

Whenever you use Data Pump to export from Oracle Database, you should use compression. It’s conveniently built into Data Pump.


  • The dump file is much smaller:
    • Less disk space is needed.
    • Easier to transfer over the network.
  • Often it is faster to use compression when you measure the entire workflow (export, transfer, and import).
  • Imports are often faster because less data needs to be written from disk.


How Do I Enable Data Pump Compression

You simply set COMPRESSION option:

$ expdp ... compression=all

You use COMPRESSION option only for exports. When you import, Data Pump handles it automatically.

You only need a license for Advanced Compression Option when you use compression during export. You don’t need a license to import a compressed dump file.

Medium Is a Good Compression Algorithm

I recommend you use the medium compression algorithm:

$ expdp ... compression=all compression_algorithm=medium

Our experience and tests show that it best balances between compression ratio and CPU.

Here are the results of a test my team did:

Algorithm File Size (MB) Compression Ratio Elapsed Time
NONE 5.800 1,0 2m 33s
BASIC 705 8,2 3m 03s
LOW 870 6,6 3m 11s
MEDIUM 701 8,2 3m 01s
HIGH 509 11,3 12m 16s

I would recommend high algorithm only if you need to transfer over a really slow network.

But I Don’t Have a License


You can still compress the dump file but not using Data Pump. Use OS utilities. In this case, I recommend splitting the dump file into pieces. It is easier to handle, and you can start transferring the dump files as they are compressed:

$ expdp ... filesize=5G dumpfile=myexp%L.dmp
$ gzip -r /u01/app/oracle/dpdir

Now, you transfer the files, uncompress and import:

[target]$ gunzip -r /u01/app/oracle/dpdir
[target]$ impdp ...


Another option is to use rsync. It has the option to compress the dump file over the network only:

$ expdp ... filesize=5G dumpfile=myexp%L.dmp
$ rsync -z ...


If you have the proper license, use Data Pump compression during export:

$ expdp ... compression=all compression_algorithm=medium

If you don’t have a license, compress the dump file over the wire only:

$ rsync -z ....

Don’t combine Data Pump compression and gzip/rsync! Compressing compressed stuff is not a good idea.

XTTS: Slow Network Between Source and Target

When you migrate an Oracle Database using cross-platform transportable tablespaces (XTTS) and incremental backups, you will need to transfer a large amount of data to the target host. In some situations, especially if the target host is in a remote data center or the cloud, you are restricted by the network throughput, and it can be a limiting factor.

One approach to speed up the data transfer is to compress it before it leaves the source host. Compressing and decompressing takes time and CPU. But if your network connection is slow enough, it may pay off in the end.

The Approach

Like all other posts in this series, I am using the Perl scripts found in MOS note V4 PERL Scripts to reduce Transportable Tablespace Downtime using Cross Platform Incremental Backup.

First, you start the initial level 0 backup of the source database:

$ORACLE_HOME/perl/bin/perl --backup

The backups will be stored in the directory defined by src_scratch_location. In my case, the directory is /u01/app/oracle/xtts_src_scratch. Now you can simple compress the entire directory:

gzip -r /u01/app/oracle/xtts_src_scratch

This should significantly reduce the size of the files. Transfer the compressed files to your target host, and put them into the directory defined by dest_scratch_location. Then, uncompress the files:

gunzip -r /u01/app/oracle/xtts_dest_scratch

Continue the procedure described in the above MOS note and start the restore:

$ORACLE_HOME/perl/bin/perl --restore

Some Figures

I made a little test to give you an idea of how much there is to save.

Data files total size 197 GB
Backup set size 197 GB
After gzip compression 12 GB

Because I don’t have any free space in my data files, the backup sets have almost the same size as the actual data files – 197 GB. By gzipping the files I could reduce the file size to 12 GB. So there is a significant amount to save – from 197 GB to 12 GB. It makes a huge difference whether you have to transfer 197 or 12 GB. But you must consider the time it takes to compress and decompress.

Elapsed time
Compression 13 min 52 sec
Decompression 8 min 7 sec

I made the same test but with image file backups and the numbers were almost the same. Generally, you should always try to use backup sets over image file backups. Backup sets use unused block compression which will skip all the unused blocks in your data files. That can make quite a difference for database with a lot of free space.

What About RMAN Compression

RMAN does have the option of compressing the backup set, but that is currently not supported by the Perl scripts. If the Perl scripts would be able to do that, you could get a good compression ratio with RMAN compression as well (of course provided you have a license for Advanced Compression Option) and avoid the gzip trick. Using the example above, by using RMAN compressed backup sets (medium compression) the backup files would be 0,3 GB which is very good as well.

But for now, you are "stuck" with the gzip trick.

Final Words

A few things to consider:

  • You should only consider this approach if you have a slow network.
  • You will need extra disk space during the compression/decompression operation.
  • You should only compress the initial, level 0 backup. The subsequent level 1 incremental backups will be much smaller in size, and it is unlikely to pay off.
  • You should test on your own database and hardware to know the actual compression ratio. Add the network throughput to the equation, and you can do the math to see if it is a good idea for your specific project.

Other Blog Posts in This Series