An Overview of Neo4j – the NoSQL Graph Database

NoSQL databases have grown in popularity over the last few years because they meet many needs of modern businesses better than traditional relational databases, especially when trying to gain meaningful knowledge out of the masses of data generated by social media – i.e., Big Data. The “NoSQL” moniker covers a whole host of database formats and structures, with document, graph, and key-value pair databases being three of the most common types. Many of the popular NoSQL databases also have open source origins.

Graph databases are highly suitable for those “needle in the haystack” scenarios when trying to find a singular relationship within a Big Data store. Neo4j continues to be an industry leading example of this NoSQL type. Here is an overview of Neo4j.

The Genesis of Neo4j

Developed by Neo Technology, the first version of Neo4j became available in early 2010. An open source edition of the product is freely available for developers and database professionals to explore its functionality. A variety of commercial licenses, including the Neo4j Enterprise Edition, give businesses additional features, like support for large volumes, scalability, and online backups.

Version 3.1 is the most recent stable release of Neo4j. The growing popularity of graph databases in general is one of the reasons Neo Technology closed on $36 million of venture capital in November of last year. The open source version of Neo4j has been downloaded 2.5 million times.

What makes Graph Databases so great?

Graph databases focus on the connections within the data; greatly outperforming traditional SQL databases in finding relationships between records in real time. Because of this superfast query speed, graph databases are highly suitable in a variety of scenarios, including fraud detection, social network applications, searching for information, and more.

This database format is also appropriate for organizations building applications using Agile. Time isn’t wasted creating massive database diagrams where one table change affects many parts of an application. As such, it nicely serves the needs of the nimble business.

The Advantages of Neo4j

One major advantage Neo4j holds over many other NoSQL and graph databases it its support for ACID (atomic, consistent, isolated, and durable) transactions. This helps ensure the quality of data, especially in widely distributed architectures where data gets replicated across different Cloud-based server farms.

The Enterprise Edition of Neo4j includes a feature known as “elastic scalability” where internal memory stores offer fast queries, with high availability provided by a replication protocol. Even greater scalability is achieved when using the Neo4j version compatible with IBM’s POWER8 processor.

Driver support for many of the most popular programming languages – Java, C#, Python, JavaScript – is included. The robust Neo4j community has also developed drivers for Ruby, PHP, and other languages. The database also plays well with many other data programming frameworks, such as JDBC, Django ORM, Spring Data, and more.

Neo4j also integrates with other popular NoSQL databases, including MongoDB and Cassandra, giving developers a measure of flexibility in building database applications to handle different needs.

If your organization is interested in NoSQL databases, download the open source version of Neo4j and explore how easy it is to create graphs and build queries against them. Soon your customers will be able to find the needle in their haystack of Big Data.

Keep checking out the Betica Blog for additional insights from the wide world of software development. Thanks for reading!

Add some Varnish to speed up your Web Applications

As worldwide Web usage continues to grow by leaps and bounds, websites are responsible for handling more users — and more importantly — more data. Companies developing web applications need to ensure their sites are able to provide a compelling experience to their audience. This becomes more difficult when considering the massive amounts of data required to support Internet video streaming and rich media content delivery.

With gigabit Internet networks rapidly becoming the norm, expect the stress on high-traffic websites to only increase over time. This is why software like Varnish is becoming more important for accelerating website performance over the venerable HTTP protocol. Since the development of faster websites is important, let’s take a closer look at Varnish.

Varnish Cache is an HTTP Accelerator

An open source cache serving as an HTTP accelerator, Varnish’s first release became available in 2006. Varnish Software, the company behind the accelerator, provides commercial support for the cache as well as other paid products, including an advanced version of the cache known as Varnish Plus. The company also offers the Varnish API Engine, a commercial solution supporting high-traffic APIs hosted in a scalable online environment.

Like many other cache products, Varnish keeps website data in memory, so it is easily accessible by a web request without having to retrieve the data from a server. The software uses a threaded model, with one thread essentially dedicated to each web connection. An included configuration language gives network engineers more options to control cache behavior and performance — an advantage over similar HTTP accelerators.

Using Varnish helps high-traffic websites, most notably the social media giants, Facebook and Twitter, handle huge amounts of simultaneous users with nary an issue. Varnish also includes advanced load balancing functionality which is vital for optimizing overall server performance. The software is especially popular among content delivery networks as well.

Supporting High-end Software Development Companies

Any company looking at developing a web application with a ton of rich media content, including online gaming, video sites, and music streaming, would benefit from adding Varnish to their site’s architecture. An online video game is only as good as its perceived performance with multiple users simultaneously connected and interacting. An app must handle this interactivity between users while also providing a compelling visual and aural experience.

Server hiccups, buffering, and general slowness adversely impacts gameplay, which leads to disgruntled customers filling social media networks with complaints. Obviously, this leads to fewer players and less revenue for the game developer. This same scenario can play out with any high-traffic rich media-laden web application, thus the importance of making Varnish an important part of the site architecture.

Additionally, software companies developing publically available APIs realize the importance of their overall performance. The standard Varnish Cache works well for most examples of this use-case, but firms needing additional functionality need to consider the commercial Varnish API Engine for a boost in horsepower. 

Varnish’s benefits are obvious for any organization involved in the development of high-traffic — users and/or data — websites. It is an easy way to make the web fly.

Stay tuned for additional insights into the world of QA and software development at the Betica Blog.