Bitmap indexes are widely used in data warehousing environments. The environments typically have large amounts of data and ad hoc queries, but a low level of concurrent DML transactions. For such applications, bitmap indexing provides:
- Reduced response time for large classes of ad hoc queries.
- Reduced storage requirements compared to other indexing techniques.
- Dramatic performance gains even on hardware with a relatively small number of CPUs or a small amount of memory.
Fully indexing a large table with a traditional B-tree index can be prohibitively expensive in terms of disk space because the indexes can be several times larger than the data in the table. Bitmap indexes are typically only a fraction of the size of the indexed data in the table. An index provides pointers to the rows in a table that contain a given key value.
A regular index stores a list of rowids for each key corresponding to the rows with that
key value. In a bitmap index, a bitmap for each key value replaces a list of rowids. Each bit in the bitmap corresponds to a possible rowid, and if the bit is set, it means that the row with the corresponding rowid contains the key value. A mapping function converts the bit position to an actual rowid, so that the bitmap index provides the same functionality as a regular index. Bitmap indexes store the bitmaps in a compressed way. If the number of distinct key values is small, bitmap indexes compress better and the space saving benefit compared to a B-tree index becomes even better.
Bitmap indexes are most effective for queries that contain multiple conditions in the WHERE clause. Rows that satisfy some, but not all, conditions are filtered out before the table itself is accessed. This improves response time, often dramatically. If you are
unsure of which indexes to create, the SQL Access Advisor can generate recommendations on what to create. As the bitmaps from bitmap indexes can be combined quickly, it is usually best to use single-column bitmap indexes. When creating bitmap indexes, you should use NOLOGGING and COMPUTE STATISTICS. In addition, you should keep in mind that bitmap indexes are usually easier to destroy and re-create than to maintain.