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Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Internals by Paul Randal Kalen Delaney Kimberly Tripp, and Conor Cunningham

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Sparse Columns

In this section, we’ll look at another special storage format, added in SQL Server 2008. Sparse columns are ordinary columns that have an optimized storage format for NULL values. Sparse columns reduce the space requirements for NULL values, allowing you to have many more columns in your table definition, so long as most of them are NULL. The cost of using sparse columns is that there will be more overhead to store and retrieve non-NULL values.

Sparse columns are intended to be used for tables storing data describing entities with many possible attributes, where most of the attributes will be NULL for most rows. For example, a content management system like Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services may need to keep track of many different ...

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