BUIP017: Datastream Compression
Proposer: Peter Tschipper
Submitted: 03/20/2016
Status: passed


Bandwidth is an issue for users that run nodes in regions where
bandwidth is expensive and subject to caps, in addition network latency
in some regions can also be quite high. By compressing data we can
reduce the daily bandwidth use in a significant way while at the same
time speed up the transmission of data throughout the network. This will
encourage users to keep their nodes running longer and allow for more
peer connections with less need for bandwidth throttling. In addition,
it may also encourage people in areas of marginal internet connectivity
to run nodes where in the past they would not be able to, while at the
same time improving the performance for downloading historical blocks,
bloom filters, xthins and transactions. Furthermore by bundling or
concatenating transactions together we can achieve much higher
compression and transmission rates than would normally be the case.


  • Using a service bit, compression and decompression can be turned

    on/off completely at both ends with a configuration setting. It is
    important to be able to easily turn off compression and
    decompression as a fall back mechanism. Using a service bit also
    makes the code fully compatible with any Nodes that do not
    currently support compression, since the service bit must be
    turned on, on both nodes for compressed data to be sent and
    decompressed at the other end. Therefore, nodes that do not
    present the correct service bit will receive data in standard
    uncompressed format.

  • All blocks will be compressed as they compress well enough, even

    below 500 bytes.

  • Transactions below 500 bytes do not compress well and will be sent

    uncompressed unless they can be further concatenated.

  • Multiple transaction requests that are in queue will be concatenated

    when possible. This further reduces bandwidth needs and speeds the
    transfer of large requests for many transactions, such as with
    MSG_FILTERED_BLOCK requests, or when the system gets busy and is
    flooded with transactions.

  • Although unlikely, if compression fails for any reason then blocks

    and transactions will be sent uncompressed. Therefore, even with
    compression turned on, a node has to be able to handle both
    compressed and uncompressed data from another peer.

  • By abstracting the compression and decompression code into class

    CDataStream, compression can in the future be applied easily to
    any additional datastream.

  • The compression library LZO1x does not compress to the extent that

    Zlib does but it is clearly the better performer, particularly as
    file sizes get larger, and at the same time providing very good

Test Results

Current test results show a 20% compression when blocks and transactions
are compressed and up to 27% when concatenated. In addition there is
decent performance improvement, particularly when there is latency on
the network.

range: data size range
ubytes: average size of uncompressed blocks
cbytes: average size of compressed blocks
ctime: average time to compress
dtime: average time to decompress
cmp%: compression percentage
datapoints: number of data points taken

range ubytes cbytes ctime dtime cmp% datapoints
0-250b 215 189 0.001 0.000 12.41 79498
250-500b 440 405 0.001 0.000 7.82 11903
500-1KB 762 702 0.001 0.000 7.83 10448
1KB-10KB 4166 3561 0.001 0.000 14.51 50572
10KB-100KB 40820 31597 0.005 0.001 22.59 75555
100KB-200KB 146238 106320 0.015 0.001 27.30 25024
200KB-300KB 242913 175482 0.025 0.002 27.76 20450
300KB-400KB 343430 251760 0.034 0.003 26.69 2069
400KB-500KB 457448 343495 0.045 0.004 24.91 1889
500KB-600KB 540736 424255 0.056 0.007 21.54 90
600KB-700KB 647851 506888 0.063 0.007 21.76 59
700KB-800KB 749513 586551 0.073 0.007 21.74 48
800KB-900KB 859439 652166 0.086 0.008 24.12 39
900KB-1MB 952333 725191 0.089 0.009 23.85 78

Compression results for transactions without concatenation
range: block size range
ubytes: average size of uncompressed transactions
cbytes: average size of compressed transactions
cmp%: compression percent
datapoints: number of data points taken

range ubytes cbytes cmp% datapoints
0-250b 220 227 -3.16 23780
250-500b 356 354 0.68 20882
500-600b 534 505 5.29 2772
600-700 653 608 6.95 1853
700-800 757 649 14.22 578
800-900 822 758 7.77 661
900-1KB 954 862 9.69 906
1KB-10KB 2698 2222 17.64 3370
10KB-100KB 15463 12092 21.80 15429

From the above table you can see that transactions don’t compress well
below 500 bytes. However, most transactions happen to be in the < 500
byte range. So the next step is to apply bundling for those smaller
transactions when there are multiple getdata requests in queue for a
peer. Doing that yields some very good compression ratios on par with
compressing blocks, which makes sense since blocks are, for the most
part, composed of concatenated transactions.

Some examples as follows:

The best one seen so far was the following where 175 transactions were
concatenated before being compressed. That yielded a 20% compression
ratio, but that doesn’t take into account the savings from the unneeded
174 message headers (24 bytes each) as well as 174 TCP ACK’s of 52 bytes
each which yields and additional 76*174=13224 bytes, making the overall
bandwidth savings 32%.

2015-11-18 01:09:09.002061 compressed data from 79890 to 67426

However, most transaction aggregates right now are in the 2 to 10
transaction range. Such as the following:

2015-11-17 21:08:28.469313 compressed data from 3199 to 2876

But even here the savings of 10% is far better than the “nothing” we
would get without bundling, but add to that the 76 byte * 9 transaction
savings and we have a total 20% savings in bandwidth for transactions
that otherwise would not be compressible and as transaction rates rise
there will be more opportunity for this type of transaction compression
and hence more and bigger savings in the future.

From the data it is clear that bundling and then compressing
transactions will be of great benefit as transactions rates rise and
will save approx. 30% overall bandwidth through the direct result of
compression as well as the savings of transaction headers and TCP ACK’s,
while at the same time reducing overall network chatter.

Backward Compatibility

Lacking the correct service bit, older clients will continue to receive
standard uncompressed data and will be fully compatible with this

Fall Back

It is important to be able to entirely and easily turn off compression
and decompression as a fall back mechanism. This can be done with a
simple bitcoin.conf setting.


This enhancement does not require a hard or soft fork.

Future Strategies

In the future we could offer other compression libraries such as
LXOx-99, Zlib or some other promising new compression algorithm.
Although they would not be as fast as LZOx-1 they could offer higher
compression rates for those that wish to save maximum bandwidth at the
expense of additional time spent compressing and decompressing.


This document is placed in the public domain.