Databases. Alongside networking, they're arguably one of the less exciting areas of the technology world.
But no matter how boring they are, databases are, of course, a critical part of delivering technology. And we live in a changing time for the humble database, with new models challenging incumbent approached. A case in point is graph databases.
For a quick primer, per Wikipedia, a graph database is a database that uses graph structures for semantic queries with nodes, edges and properties to represent and store data. A key concept of the system is the graph (or edge or relationship), which directly relates data items in the store. The relationships allow data in the store to be linked together directly and, in most cases, retrieved with a single operation.
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This contrasts with conventional relational databases, where links between data are stored in the data itself. And queries search for this data within the store and use the JOIN concept to collect the related data. Graph databases, by design, allow simple and rapid retrieval of complex hierarchical structures that are difficult to model in relational systems.
One company hoping to build momentum for itself through graph databases is Neo Technology. The company is the creator of Neo4J, a highly scalable native graph database that is used by such varied organizations as Walmart, UBS, Cisco, HP, Adidas Group and Lufthansa.
The company today announced a $36 million Series D investment round led by by Greenbridge Investment Partners with participation from existing investors, including Sunstone, Creandum and Eight Roads Ventures.
Not one to mince words, Greenbridge is a new investor that thinks Neo is the “next Oracle.” That is, of course, hyperbole but informs as to just how excited investors are in these new approaches.
Neo4J's role in the Panama Papers
Part of the attention that Neo4J has received came about when it played a key role in unraveling the Panama Papers—the largest data leak in recorded history—allowing journalists across the globe to decipher the web of interconnected datasets detailing wide-scale international tax evasion. The graph database approach was a key tool that allowed quick and clear identification of the complex relationships between the various parties involved in the papers.
While the Panama Papers was a good headline use case for Neo, there is some real traction going on outside of that. The company claims over 2.5 million downloads of its product, “thousands” of production deployments and a thriving community of developers worldwide.
Beyond the “Oracle-buster” hyperbole, Greenbridge leaders provide some color about the company's investment decision.
Managing partner Emanuel Lang explained the firm’s decision to invest in Neo Technology:
“Globally, we’re generating more data than ever before through more users, devices and digital processes—so much so that a company’s ability to use this data will determine its competitive position in the future. We believe graph databases provide the best technology approach to store, correlate and deliver value from data relationships in real time.
"Neo4j is the undisputed leader in that field—with the largest community and customer base, the best technology and a leadership team that has demonstrated the ability to innovate and execute. When we look at the market forces, combined with Neo Technology’s vision and execution, we believe we are investing in a technology as important as the relational revolution led by Oracle.”
Of course, there is a slight cloud hanging over this news because of a pending action against Greenbridge's founding investor, Ola Rollen, relating to an unrelated investment. Here's hoping that doesn't have a negative impact on Neo and the quality of its product and it can rise above any bad press.
I can take or leave the bluster around Oracle, but having spent time trawling the Panama Papers document dump, I have seen firsthand how easy Neo4J makes it to digest complex, interrelated data. That’s a valuable offering, and Neo—and the company behind the technology—looks to have a good opportunity.
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