DATAVERSITY™ recently interviewed Emil Eifrem, the Founder and CEO of Neo Technology. Emil will be giving a session at the Enterprise Data World 2014 Conference in Austin, Texas from April 27 – May 1, 2014. His session is titled “The Five Graphs of Telecommunications – Real World Graph Database Use Cases.

The Speaker Spotlight Column (and its parallel venture the Sponsor Spotlight Column) is an ongoing project that focuses on highlighting several of the central issues represented at the many Data Management conferences produced by DATAVERSITY.

The primary emphasis of the interview was to question Emil Eifrem on his work and history within the industry, with particular importance on his presentation at the upcoming conference:
DATAVERSITY (DV): What are you going to discuss during your session at EDW14, and what will the audience gain from attending your talk? (Please be specific about one or two issues you’ll be addressing and the benefits the audience will obtain).

Emil Eifrem (EE): Recent years have seen an explosion of technologies for managing, processing and analyzing graphs. This has been popularized by leading social web properties like Facebook and LinkedIn, together with Google and Twitter. Therefore as you might expect, popular awareness of graph databases has largely focused around the social graph, and various social uses. In parallel to this buzz though, more than 30 of the Global 2000 have in the past 18 months have quietly been deploying graph databases across quite a broad range of business critical use cases. While some are social, the majority actually aren’t. This is what’s fascinating, and what I think will be of great interest to the EDW audience.

My session will focus on Telecommunications, offering a look at the Five Graphs of Telecommunications, and covering the most popular Telco use cases for graph databases. These will be exemplified using actual deployments from leading telecommunications companies, including Deutsche Telekom, Telenor, Tre, Maaii, and StarHub. From root cause analysis on equipment failure using the network graph, to churn reduction leveraging the call graph, to resource authorization, to Master Data Management for corporate hierarchy and product master… attendees will learn about some of the latest applications of graph databases through real-world examples.

Attendees will leave this session with an understanding of some of the top ways that telecommunications companies can use graph databases to help improve competitiveness and drive business insight.

DV: What is really important about such a topic in terms of the current state of Data Management and / or how the industry going to transform moving into the future?

EE: Graph databases are becoming a defining theme for Data Management, and we are witnessing a their rapid mainstream adoption by industries across the board – not just by Telcos. As the graph model offers impressive expressiveness and unparalleled flexibility and insight, today’s rapid uptake of graph databases is powering all kinds of solutions. From social and recommendations to risk and portfolio management and governance, from data center management to supply chain and logistics and beyond, graphs are everywhere and are taking over the world. The benefit is that businesses can open up new opportunities for generating critical insight and end-user value from their connected data, which can make all the difference in keeping up with today’s competitive business environment.

DV: Please tell us a little about yourself and your history in the industry, past work experience, and how you got started in the data profession?

EE: We started the Neo4j project in 2000 out of a garage in Malmö, Sweden, and with $2.5M in funding we eventually built a database that that delivered data 1000x faster than Oracle. In 2007, I co-founded Neo Technology, the company behind Neo4j, which has since raised $24 million in venture-backed capital to fuel product development, and has made Neo4j the world’s leading graph database. I’m a frequent speaker at leading industry events and co-author of the O’Reilly book “Graph Databases.” I fully plan on saving the world with graphs and owning Larry’s yacht by the end of the decade.

DV: What is the biggest challenge happening in your particular area of Data Management at this time?

EE: Our users are finding that the Data Management tools and techniques of the past are not equipped to handle today’s non-uniform, semi-structured and highly interconnected data. Faced with this dilemma, they often struggle to fit everything into the relational or key-value models. Relational databases are great when it comes to relatively static and predictable tabular data, but the complexities and dynamics of the real world call for new methods. This is particularly true when the world is moving at the speed of web, and everybody is racing to get ahead of everybody else. A graph database like Neo4j offers the most natural way for modeling such connected data, while providing incredible power, performance, and flexibility.

DV: How is such a change influencing your job?

EE: It makes my job very exciting as more and more organizations are exploring, adopting and benefiting from graph databases. Graph databases were the fastest-growing DBMS category in 2013, and that trend is continuing as we come into 2014. 451 Research recently wrote that graph databases are coming out from under the umbrella of NOSQL, into their own definitive category. While the growth is incredible, what’s really exciting to me is seeing the diversity of real and valuable problems that are being addressed with graphs.

DV: How have your job, and / or the work you are doing at your organization, altered in the past 12 months? How do you expect it will change in the next 1-2 years?

EE: We recently released Neo4j 2.0, which I think is the most substantial piece of engineering ever invested in the graph space. Neo4j 2.0 makes it easier than ever for anyone to learn and harness the power of the graph. Five years from now we’ll all look back on Neo4j 2.0 and think that’s when it began, that was the pivotal point when graphs started becoming a tool on equal footing with SQL and Map/Reduce for Data Management.

We’ve seen a lot of people enter the space. I expect that trend will accelerate over the next 1-2 years. As to our own focus, we’re growing, so it’s going to be about continuing to make Neo4j bigger, better, faster, and easier to use. We’re lucky in that we have a big head start: 14 years, so Neo4j is a pretty logical choice from enterprises.

DV: What’s your favorite “Data” or “Data Management” quote?

EE: “Big Data is like teenage sex. Everyone says they’re doing it, but in reality few are, and no one is doing it well.”

DV: How do you explain what you do for work, at a cocktail party, or to your grandparents?

EE: I work to save the world one node at a time with Neo4j, and plan on owning Larry’s yacht by the end of the decade.

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