We live in a connected world. There are no isolated pieces of information, but rich, connected domains all around us. Only a database that embraces relationships as a core aspect of its data model is able to store, process, and query connections efficiently. While other databases compute relationships expensively at query time, a graph database stores connections as first class citizens, readily available for any “join-like” navigation operation. Accessing those already persistent connections is an efficient, constant-time operation and allows you to quickly traverse millions of connections per second per core.
Independent of the total size of your dataset, graph databases excel at managing highly connected data and complex queries. Armed only with a pattern and a set of starting points, graph databases explore the larger neighborhood around the initial starting points — collecting and aggregating information from millions of nodes and relationships — leaving the billions outside the search perimeter untouched.
The Property Graph Model
If you’ve ever worked with an object model or an entity relationship diagram, the labeled property graph model will seem familiar. The property graph contains connected entities (the nodes) which can hold any number of attributes (key-value-pairs). Nodes can be tagged with labels representing their different roles in your domain. In addition to contextualizing node and relationship properties, labels may also serve to attach metadata—index or constraint information—to certain nodes.
Relationships provide directed, named semantically relevant connections between two node-entities. A relationship always has a direction, a type, a start node, and an end node. Like nodes, relationships can have any properties. In most cases, relationships have quantitative properties, such as weights, costs, distances, ratings, time intervals, or strengths. As relationships are stored efficiently, two nodes can share any number or type of relationships without sacrificing performance. Note that although they are directed, relationships can always be navigated regardless of direction.
The building blocks of the Property Graph
There is one core consistent rule in a graph database: “No broken links”. Since a relationship always has a start and end node, you can’t delete a node without also deleting its associated relationships. You can also always assume that an existing relationship will never point to a non-existing endpoint.