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In recent Linux releases, it’s available a tiny module called zram, that permits us to create RAM based block devices (named /dev/zramX), which will be kept in memory as compressed data. These ram-based block devices allow very fast I/O, and compression provides a reasonable amounts of memory saving.
We can use it as a drop-in replacement for the well-known tmpfs (used for speeding up compilation tasks or for /tmp), or better as a primary swap device, that will lead to virtually increase memory capacity, at the expense of a slightly increased CPU usage to compress/decompress the swapped data.
Nowadays RAM is very cheap, so why bother with compression? Because there are some situations where you can’t upgrade memory (netbooks) or you want to over-commit real resources (virtualization hosts).
For Ubuntu Precise and later:
Starting with Ubuntu Precise, there is an official upstart script for Ubuntu by Adam Conrad to configure zram in the main repository: