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graph database

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: An architect's guide: How to use big data

A graph database, also called a graph-oriented database, is a type of NoSQL database that uses graph theory to store, map and query relationships. 

A graph database is essentially a collection of nodes and edges. Each node represents an entity (such as a person or business) and each edge represents a connection or relationship between two nodes. Every node in a graph database is defined by a unique identifier, a set of outgoing edges and/or incoming edges and a set of properties expressed as key/value pairs. Each edge is defined by a unique identifier, a starting-place and/or ending-place node and a set of properties.  The mantra of graph database enthusiasts is "If you can whiteboard it, you can graph it."

Graph databases are well-suited for analyzing interconnections, which is why there has been a lot of interest in using graph databases to mine data from social media. Graph databases are also useful for working with data in business disciplines that involve complex relationships and dynamic schema, such as supply chain management, identifying the source of an IP telephony issue and creating "customers who bought this also looked at..." recommendations.

The concept behind graphing a database is often credited to 18th-century mathematician Leonhard Euler.

See also:  social graph, graph search

This was last updated in June 2016

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