Neo4j Updates Graph Database

Graph database pioneer Neo4j announced the latest update of its namesake product this week, and the company isn't holding back on the superlatives.

Neo4j 4.0 is "the most significant product release in the graph technology market to date," the press release reads. The company's chief scientist, Jim Webber said it's "the culmination of more than a year's worth of our work, from the biggest engineering team ever invested in graph technology." And the company's founder and CEO, Emil Eifrem, is calling this release "a massive, audacious engineering investment to raise the bar on the scale, performance and security that can be expected from a graph database."

Neo4j 4.0 is a major upgrade of the market-leading graph database management system (DBMS) that aims to address the demands of modern application development brought on by the advent of practical AI and machine learning and a veritable tsunami of data. It addresses the needs of applications to scale up and out to handle higher volumes while maintaining performance across on-premises, hybrid and cloud architectures. It supports "dynamic revealed context" to cope with the complexities and unpredictability of real-world data. And it amps up security and privacy features.

The graph database is experiencing a surge in popularity, thanks to all of the above. This type of database, which uses graph structures for semantic queries with nodes, edges and properties to represent and store data, solves a lot of problems for data-intensive app builders, explained RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady.

"The modern application development process puts a premium on velocity, which is why ease of use and flexibility for developers have become as critical as performance for database platforms," O'Grady said in a statement. "One of the ways this is achieved is by avoiding the need for cumbersome data abstractions to translate between business needs and relational schemas. Graph databases are a canonical example of this, and Neo4j remains one of the pioneers of the category committed to bringing the benefits of graphs to a wide variety of customer types and use cases."

Patrick Wall, director of product management at Neo4j, expects 2020 to be a big year for the graph database in general. "If you look at the trend lines," he said, "you can see that graph is exploding." The updates in this release, which Wall said comprise "the four pillars," put Neo4j at the head of that trend. These include the new Neo4j Reactive Architecture, which allows the DBMS to be responsive, elastic and robust; an extension into a multi-database world, where users are able to run multiple databases online in a cluster or server, concurrently; and the new Neo4j Fabric, which allows the DBMS to do distributed queries over multi-databases. And there's a new schema-based security model.

"There's a lot to like in this release," Wall said. "But I think the security and privacy upgrade is really exciting. We now give developers and administrators fine-grained control over access to data for security and privacy purposes." These granular security controls were developed to ensure that only the appropriate users have access to sensitive data, Wall said, which opens up potential new graph use cases in areas that can include sensitive information, such as medical research.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].