In this article from, Lucy Carey talks about the beginnings of Neo Technology, Emil Eifrem and the evolution to Neo4j 2.0

Ever since CEO of Neo Technology and co-founder of the Neo4j graph database Emil Eifrem first sketched out the core data model for the company’s system on the back of a napkin on a flight to Mumbai in 2000, the formula for Neo Technology’s success has remained “exactly identical”- until now.

With the release of Neo4j 2.0 imminent, Emil is ready to shake things up for the first time in over a decade – hence the 2.0 affix. Not that this will come as a major surprise to the community around Neo4j – thanks to the company’s transparent approach, they’ve been able to follow the progress of what Emil describes as a “quite extraordinary release” each step of the way.

According to Emil, Neo4j 2.0 is probably going to be released towards the end of the year, with December slated as the release for the GA version. It will be the first time that Neo Technology has made changes to the core data model for Neo4j. Emil explains that these changes will make it, “a lot more convenient to do certain things – we’ve got a new web UI which we’re calling Neo4j browser, which we think is going to be very impactful.” The first big reveal will be at Graph Connect – Neo Technology’s annual conference for graph databases and their applications.

Today, Emil puts the number of groups working on projects, products and companies related to graph databases at about 30 to 40, including Oracle IBM, SAP, and Facebook – but back in the days of the first IT boom, it was a very different landscape. Even now, according to Emil, “the majority of the world still doesn’t know that graph databases exist”, but there’s “an explosion of technologies that are addressing this now”.

The seeds for the Neo4j graph database project were first planted in early 2000, when the three co-founders of the project were working at a Swedish start up in the first big IT boom, at a company that dealt with “a bunch of very hierarchical data”. The team was dealing day in day out with a mass of “connected, big meshy data”’, with multiple parents on every node, and a complex security model protecting data, and working with everyone from, “small advertising agencies, up to the Swedish defence”. Emil, who was CTO, discovered that, at one point, about half of his team were spending their time, “just fighting with the relational database”.

A flurry of visits from consultants from companies such as IBM and Oracle followed, and eventually, they “started figuring it out that basically the key problem was that we had all this connected data – all the round data that we squeezed into this relational database – which if you will, was the square hole- and there was a huge mismatch between the nature and the shape of the data”.

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