Neo Technology Commercializes Next Generation Graph Based Database


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.