Graph databases and analytics systems have been quiet, "under the covers" technologies for some time. Based on mathematical notions of structure, they did a pretty good job of modeling relationships between data elements in special settings, but their use has been narrow.
In terms of visibility, they certainly lag the relational database, which, by some measures, is actually younger than the graph. Now, graph technology is coming into greater prominence, as a driver of many new application architectures. It was at the crux of new products described last month at Informatica World 2016 in San Francisco.
The graph that's most familiar is the ubiquitous Facebook friends' network. Similar technology is behind Google initiatives, such as Knowledge Graph. A graph database underpins the Panama Papers project -- the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' effort that made headlines when it disclosed the sundry offshore businesses connections of some world leaders.
There is more. Graph technology buttresses a semantic data system for delivering better patient diagnoses at the Montefiore Health System, an academic medical center and University Hospital based in Bronx, N.Y.
The general notion of graphs of information even showed up as a factor in Microsoft's $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella cited LinkedIn's professional network graph as one of the jewels of the acquisition, one he hopes to closely connect to the Microsoft Graph of customers' calendars, project artifacts, documents and so on.
Where relationships need careful tracking, homebrewed graph databases are increasingly common. Master data management (MDM) has been one such use. MDM software vendors use graph technology in various forms, as well, with the objective to improve their MDM and data governance offerings. That's seen in recent releases of Cambridge Semantics' Anzo graph software for data management, as well as Reltio's Cloud and TopQuadrant's TopBraid platform.
The drum roll of this type of activity is not lost on data integration vendor Informatica. If not exactly front and center, graph technology is the beating heart within several new Informatica products, such as Live Data Map. In effect, Live Data Map acts as a knowledge graph and metadata repository, and can help automation of data discovery and preparation tasks. The software is still new, having reached version 1.0 in December. At the conference, it was discussed as an underlying technology behind Informatica's upcoming Enterprise Information Catalog.