“We are entering the connected age,” Emil Eifrem, Founder and CEO of Neo Technology, said in his keynote at the GraphConnect conference in San Francisco. The future “is highly, highly connected.”
Oh, and he just happens to have an app for that.
In 2027, 75 percent of the companies currently on the S&P 500 will no longer be on the list. What will keep the 25 percent on the list? Data.
“Data is the new oil,” Eifrem said, referencing a commodity that, along with railroads, made the millionaires of the Gilded Age. But it’s not just data.
While data in isolation is valuable, said Eifrem, “the ability to connect the data is extraordinarily valuable.” The most powerful database on the planet: the human brain. Its neurons connect to other neurons through synapses. And that looks very much like a graph.
What’s amazing, he said, is that the brain doesn’t just store data; it makes sense of it.
It’s hard to imagine now, he told the keynote audience of 1,200, but Google was the fifteenth search engine that came on the market back in the late 90s. What Google did differently, he explained, was to rank their search results; it took data core to its business and connected it.
Fundamentally, a database just stores retrieves data. But the future, declared Eifrem, belongs to those who can connect the data and make it instantly useful to decision-makers, whether they be customers seeing recommendations in real time, CEOs seeing at a glance how suppliers are performing, or the security experts seeing fraud that before was invisible.
A graph database is different from the standard relational database in that it is structured like the human brain, Eifrem,explained. It makes connections between the data that help you make sense of that data. “The fact that you can attach properties to the relationships sounds like a small thing, sounds like a simple thing, sounds like an obvious thing, but that is what makes the database expressive.”
It is this sort of contextualizing of the data that is the future of the Connected Enterprise. “If you have an enterprise where all of your data is connected, your supply chain is connected to your CRM, that’s connected to your marketing technologies, that is connected to your logistics, that is connected to your customers that is connected to your payment history, everything is directly or indirectly connected, that will be an extraordinarily powerful thing,” Eifrem stated.
The companies who do this are the ones that will remain in the 25 percent.
In a press event following the keynote, Eifrem declared that the idea of the “one size fits all” database is over. The interesting question that data architects are now trying to solve is: what it a good fit? Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) hold their data in silos, and connecting data across silos is complicated and messy.
Neo is seeing businesses holding on to their RDBMS with silos and adding graph databases to store the connections across the different RDBMSes.
Scott Grimes, who is the eCommerce and CMS senior director/architect at Marriott Hotels, described how this works when company policy mandates the use of specific databases (e.g. IBM or Oracle): Over time, they ended up with data 10 levels deep.
The hotel chain started using graph databases to manage the relationships between the siloed data. “Each node is almost like a row,” Grimes explained, “so you can seamlessly follow that relationship with the data.”
Data retrieval went from 30 seconds to 25 milliseconds.
The key, said Grimes, is making the relationship a “first-class citizen.” Adding new relationships to a graph database is much easier than going into SQL database and establishing foreign keys throughout the system.
Indeed, the new clustering arch is designed for the cloud mindset, said Eifrem, where you have elastic things that are easy to set up and tear down as you scale up and down.
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