What Is a Graph Database?

February 14, 2020

What is a Graph?

A graph is composed of two elements: a node and a relationship. Each node represents an entity (a person, place, thing, category or other piece of data), and each relationship represents how two nodes are associated. 

For example, the two nodes cake and dessert would have the relationship is a type of pointing from cake to dessert. This general-purpose structure allows you to model all kinds of scenarios: from a system of roads, to a network of devices, to a population’s medical history or anything else defined by relationships.

What Is a Graph Database?

A graph database is an online database management system with Create, Read, Update and Delete (CRUD) operations working on a graph data model. 

Graph databases are generally built for use with Online transaction processing (OLTP) systems. They are normally optimized for transactional performance, and engineered with transactional integrity and operational availability in mind.

Unlike other databases, relationships take first priority in graph databases. This means your application doesn’t have to infer data connections using foreign keys or out-of-band processing, such as MapReduce. By assembling the simple abstractions of nodes and relationships into connected structures, graph databases enable us to build sophisticated models that map closely to our problem domain.

Unlike other databases, relationships take first priority in graph databases. 

The Case for Graph Databases

The biggest value that graphs bring to the development stack is their ability to store relationships and connections as first-class entities. For instance, the early adopters of graph technology reimagined their businesses around the value of data relationships. These companies have now become industry leaders: LinkedIn, Google, Facebook and PayPal.

As pioneers in graph technology, each of these enterprises had to build their own graph database from scratch.  Fortunately for today’s developers, that’s no longer the case, as graph database technology is now available off the shelf.


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