Forrester Research predicts that at least 25% of enterprises across the globe will adopt a graph database by 2017. On the back of this, we interviewed Holger Temme, Area Director of CEMEA at Neo Technology. Neo Technology is the company behind Neo4j, the world’s leading graph database. Its researchers have pioneered graph databases since 2000 and have been instrumental in bringing the power of the graph to numerous organizations worldwide, including 50+ Global 2000 customers, such as Cisco, Accenture, and Telenor.
Can you tell me what a graph database is and the benefits over other models?
What Neo Technology has developed is a persistence store for applications in a graph model. What that means is, is that we are storing information and holding the relationship between two datasets as a first class citizen in a database. In today’s world of big data, real-time requirements, and social networks, this is huge benefit.
Typically graph databases are getting compared to a relational database. Like the relational model, we store the relationship between two data sets a relational database model needs to compute it.
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The crucial difference however is that when you store your data in a relational database model and you want to get the information of the connected relationship between the two datasets, you need to compute it in a joint statement. This requires very high computation requirements, especially in the big data space where you need to understand how multiple datasets are connected.
Here’s a good example: if you wanted to find a route from Munich to Nuremberg, you don’t care that there is a road from Berlin to Hamburg – this is simply irrelevant for your query. In a relational database model, however every road would be part of the calculation. Consequently, the calculation in a graph database is much more simpler than other models out there.
You have a very impressive list of customers in your portfolio, from Cisco, Walmart and Accenture to other Fortune 40 and Fortune 500 clients. What is it about Neo Technology that makes you so attractive?
With larger corporations like the ones you mentioned, there are three basic reasons they have used the graph database: 1) They have outgrown the relational database model because of the size of the data they have, 2) The time available to compute a batch job overnight was no longer enough, and 3) the cost of adding node after node on a SQL server no longer made sense, financially.
So Walmart, for example, replaced a legacy recommendation engine, which was built on a MySQL cluster. Their reason for this was based on that fact that their old system computed data in batch during the night, which meant that the recommendations given to the customer were old and not based on current information. They implemented the graph, just like other companies have, because of its real time processing capabilities, drastic reduction in cost, and its ability to adapt to new business requirements. This is really the benefit of our technology.
What is the reason behind the increase in adoption of the graph database model?
There are two main reasons: 1) over the past five years, we have done a lot to educate developers about the benefits of graph databases. We now have a large distribution of knowledge in the developer community with tens of thousands of downloads a month of our software.
2) The emergence of big data has created new requirements, and the models that have been used for 30+ years – predominately the relational model — are now simply inadequate to deal with them. The boundaries of relational model have forced people to look elsewhere.
The relational database model is undoubtedly a great model, but only for the right use case. Crucially, however, there’s nothing you can do in a relational model that you cant do in a graph one (or vice versa), it’s just simply you can do it much more efficiently in the graph model.
But this trend is recent and it is picking up rapidly. This is why Forrester predicts that 25% of enterprises across the world will start using a graph database by 2017. That’s a big statement.
Any big announcements this year?
There’s nothing major that we will announce this year, but we are going to have our next event — GraphConnect — on Wednesday, October 22 in San Francisco. It’s the de facto graph database event in the industry. So we’re excited about this.
About our general plan, we are currently in the process of extending our coverage on a global level. We have recently rolled out a new partner programme to attract partners to co-work with us, and on a field level we are covering more and more countries.
We’re really in a position now where we will see incredible growth. For 14 years, the product has been developed and the market is now ready. This is what makes us different from a lot of other companies out there – they generally focus on market first, product second. We have always had the opposite philosophy: product first, market second. As the Forrester research suggests, this will really pay off now.
(Image Credit: GustavoG)