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Neo Technology Commercializes Next Generation Graph Based Database

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A new generation of database products and companies is beginning to emerge, and one of the more interesting examples is Swedish-based Neo Technology, the developer and vendor of the neo4j graph based database (graph in the data structure sense). The neo4j product has been in development for over 8 years, and Neo Technology are today announcing a new $2.5M round of funding. The company has been developing the neo4j project as a commercial product, and is now taking it to market with a dual-license model.

A graph database is a more natural method for expressing, storing and retrieving data that does not fit well in a standard relational database schema. The best example is to consider social networking models, or other models with relationship elements that are either not easily expressed in a traditional table structure or where a table and relationship based structure does not scale.

In a demo of the product we saw, a mock social network structure was created where 1,000 users were defined, each with 50 friends. The traditional table based database took 2,000ms to query every friend from every user, while the graph-based neo4j database took 2ms. To demonstrate the efficiency of the database further, with 1,000 times more users at a million (and an order of magnitude magnitude more connections), the total query time was still 2ms. The graph model and the neo4j database are able to easily scale with complex relationships between entities and with a more flexible schema.

Neo Technology are providing a commercial version of neo4j, Neo, along with services, training and support for the product. The product is licensed under the AGPLv3. The company raised $2.5M from Sunstone Capital and Condor Venture Partners. They previously raising a smaller seed round of $300k from the Swedish government. Neo Technology was founded by a small team lead by CEO Emil Eifrém. The team originally developed the neo4j product as an internal database at a previous company, and have applied the technology in commercial environments for almost 10 years.

Neo Technology are closely following in the footsteps of another Swedish database company, MySQL. They not only share the same home country, but both companies started with a solid open source product, both are database companies and both share a similar business model around open source software.

Neo provides the next generation of database, more suited to most common data problems faced in the real world today. Graph databases are part of a group of technologies of non-relational databases commonly grouped under the ‘NoSQL’ name and movement. The NoSQL movement began with a recent conference in San Francisco, and a conference this week in Atlanta where the Neo Tech was represented.

Most application developers today are not farmiliar with non-relational data storage models, since RDMS dominate the market and most frameworks and language environments have little to no support for alternates. This leads to developers squeezing data models that are not well suited for a table based structure into a database such as MySQL, often leading to poor performance, scalability and reliance on code to do the heavy lifting.

The technology around graph databases was previously usually developed in house by companies who identified specific needs, with some commercial options available. With companies such as Neo Technology supporting a very stable and scalable open source product, the technology is sure to now start to find its way into enterprises and become popular with application developers.

  • Josh Ferguson

    There’s a big difference between these guys and MySQL. the AGPLv2 doesn’t allow commercial applications at all. Their commercial sales cycle is the traditional “email us and we’ll try and figure out how much we think we want to charge you based on all kinds of metrics you probably have no clue about”.

    If you’re a startup, forget about this. Mysql gained most of its traction from 10s of thousands of startups and mid-range companies adopting their technologies due to its incredibly low adoption barriers and liberal licensing, not because other GPL’d products could use it and distribute it for non-commercial use.

    It’s also a little off putting that they’ll let the entire open source community contribute portions of code back into their products, but then won’t let anyone in the community use that for their own commercial ventures. Is that an ethical business model? I’m not sure.

  • Emil Eifrem

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks for your comment. So the way it works is that if your software is open source, you can use Neo4j at no cost. In addition, our entry level commercial product is free as in beer (i.e. $0) for use cases up to 1 million primitives. (A primitive in our lingo is either a node, or a relationship or a property.)

    So if you want to use Neo4j in a proprietary setting or for whatever reason don’t want to open up your source code and you have a dataset with less than 1 million primitives, you can contact us at and get a commercial entry license for free.

    Basically our thinking is something along these lines: if you write open source software, awesome, please use Neo4j at no cost. If you write proprietary software, you’re not unlikely to be making money off of it and then we think it’s fair to ask you to purchase a commercial license. It’s not perfect but we believe it’s a good approximation to fair and ethical as well as commercially viable.

    Emil Eifrem

    • Pierre

      “If you write proprietary software, you’re not unlikely to be making money off of it”

      Not necessarily. Lots of hobby web apps don’t make any money but still grow to be very big. MySQL allows for this use case but as I understand it, you don’t.

  • Larry

    Doesn’t Oracle Spatial already do this? Neo either has some bullocks of steal or no clue who he is competing with. Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?

    • Emil Eifrem

      Hi Larry,

      Yea, you’re correct that in some relational systems you can get some benefits by using either datatype extensions (like Oracle Spatial) or non-standardized (or at least seldomly-implemented) SQL syntax (such as Oracle’s CONNECT BY).

      The problem with that is typically that many times it’s little more than syntactic sugar. Sure, you get some minor improvements (for example by eliminating a network roundtrip) but at the end of the day you still have to do expensive joins. So the performance gains aren’t in the same ballpark as if you use a true graph database.

      Furthermore, features like that only address one side of the table anyway. Even if the performance was acceptable, you’re still stuck with a non-intuitive and cumbersome programming model if you have a graph/network oriented dataset.

      Emil Eifrem

    • http://manyphpsites tim

      exactly Larry

      Would you rather be blissfully ignorant?

      I’ii answer for you

      Ya sometimes

  • Oren

    There’s also an experimental graph computation engine for MySQL by OpenQuery called OQGRAPH. Documentation can be found in

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  • Parag

    Can someone please compare graph based database with object oriented database, aren’t both non relational database ?

    • Nik Cubrilovic

      there are many, many forms of non-relational and there are many points of comparison. upcoming post will cover it

      • Parag Parandkar

        Grt, looking forward for it.

  • atombul

    Sounds very interesting.

  • Eddy

    Is there any current data comparing these graph engines mentioned above and including Direct Edge?

    I’ve bee using the standard Modified Preordered and Recursive tree traversal methods for a while now and I had no idea this stuff was out there – so I’m definitely interested!

    • Eddy

      Sorry, ignore Directed Edge. It isn’t what I thought it was for a second…

    • Scott Wheeler

      Our (Directed Edge’s) graph database is just in-house and not really designed for general purpose use. There’s no way to do any sort of structured query on the graph, for example. It supports the feature set we need for doing fast recommendations and pretty much nothing more.

      Congrats to the neo4j guys on pulling the round together!

  • Emil's Neo Thoughts

    Let’s go…

    So TechCrunch spilled the beans with a nice writeup and the genie is officially out of the bottle: Two weeks ago today, we closed a $2.5M seed stage investment with kickass VC firms Sunstone Capital and Conor Venture Partners. As our friends and family…

  • TheBlogIsMine

    Sounds very interesting. And i didn’t think that MySQl is 1billion dollar wost?! Awesome!

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  • Junaid

    Can this be used as a RDF store?

    • Carl Garland

      I would assume the answer is yes since there was a session on neo4j yesterday at the 2009 ISWC right before Tim Berners Lee talk. I am surprised I have seen no mention of this semantic web conference since there seems to be so much recent traction in this area. When I first dabbled in semantic technologies 7 years ago it seemed to be only academic/research but lately it seems there are actually a lot of vendors and *web 3.0* firms that are receiving funding and building products for use in the next wave.

      • Peter Neubauer

        Neo4j can be used as a SAIL-compatible Triple Store where it actually builds a graph of the triples and translates SPARQL into real graph traversals as opposed to set operations on triple sets in a relational setup, see

        However, we believe the usefulness of graphs in general is a much wider field than the SemWeb community and RDF. Therefore think of a Triple Store rather as a derivative setup of a high performance generic graph engine if you choose to model the information that way.

        Disclaimer: I am part of the Neo4j team.

  • Ashwin Jayaprakash

    This is good news. Good luck to you guys!

    I just hope you can Hadoop/Grid enable it and then add some distributed Graph analysis algos to it. That would make this a really cool platform.


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