The name kind of gives it away, but Apollo GraphQL has long focused on helping developers use the GraphQL query language for APIs to integrate data from a variety of services. Over the course of the last few years, it also worked with large enterprises to help them bring together data from a wide variety of sources into a single “Supergraph,” as the company likes to call it. Now, it is making these capabilities, which were previously the domain of large enterprises like Expedia, Walmart and Zillow, available to anybody on its platform.
Apollo CEO and co-founder Geoff Schmidt wasn’t shy about what he thinks this announcement means when I talked to him ahead of today’s announcement. “We’ve been working on GraphQL since 2016, back when we were Meteor.js. But what we have to announce today is really why we built the company through all these years and through all these open source projects,” he said. “It’s something that I think history will look at as being as big a deal as the database or the message bus or containerization — or maybe even the cloud itself.”
That’s a lot to live up to.
“The Supergraph is a whole new way to think about GraphQL and what it’s for and what it delivers,” Schmidt continued. “I think the key idea of the Supergraph is the graph of graphs. It’s how these individual graphs that people have been building come together into a new layer of the stack — a different way of building applications — something that is as significant for how we’re all going to use the stack in the future as the database was.”
Schmidt argues that as enterprises broke up their monolithic application architectures and moved to microservices, everything became so atomized that it now puts the burden on developers to piece everything back together when they want to build a new application on top of these systems.
At the core of the Supergraph are three projects. The first is the Apollo Router, a Rust-based runtime that processes GraphQL queries and then plans and executes them across federated subgraphs and returns those responses back to the client. This router, the company says, is 10x faster than the old Apollo Gateway, which the company previously used for querying federated graphs. The second piece is a set of new capabilities or the free tier of Apollo Studio, the company’s tool for managing data sources. The free tier will now include schema checks to ensure a new schema won’t break and existing applications and a launch dashboard that provides visibility into the schema-checking and launch process that was only available to enterprise users until now. And the third piece is Apollo Federation 2, which launched in April and allows users to compose their subgraphs into a single supergraph.
Schmidt stressed that the company isn’t trying to replicate data lakes for analytical use cases here but a layer in the stack that allows developers to build new use cases.
“It’s not just how many pizzas that I sell, but can I order a pizza? You want to create something that’s almost like a virtual database — or a virtual server — that has objects that represent everything in a company: every customer, every product, every order, every like, every blog post — and you want to be able to ask questions like, ‘show me all the orders that this customer did,’ even though all that stuff lives in 1,000 different services,” Schmidt explained.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Supergraph can live up to Apollo’s hype. Currently, the company’s GraphQL client, server and gateway are currently being downloaded more than 17 million times a month and the company says its products are being used in production by 30% of the Fortune 500. With the Supergraph, the company hopes to establish itself as a core part of the modern development stack.