Need a graph DBMS but don’t want one?

How do CIOs respond to end-users pushing them to install a graph database management system (DBMS) for their latest data analytics or machine learning application? No one wants to install another DBMS in their on-premises computing infrastructure. Everyone is painfully aware of what it costs to care for and feed the relational DBMS that’s been in place for many years.

Always quick to spot a new opportunity, cloud computing vendors added a graph DBMS as a Software as a Service (DBaaS) offering. Some of these cloud SaaS offerings include an ongoing role for the graph DBMS vendors.

“We are proud of the automation, scale and reliability enhancements we’ve built into Neo4j Aura, our fully-managed graph DBMS as a service,” says Ramanan Balakrishnan, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Neo4j. “These features provide our customers high-availability for handling massive connected databases in the cloud platform of their choice, with predictable cost.”

What should you consider as you shop for this DBaaS cloud service that’s an appealing alternative to another on-premises DBMS?

Time to value

As CIO, you and your IT department are continually under schedule pressure. Every internal customer always wants every application delivered sooner and perform faster.

Operating in a DBaaS cloud service offering should reduce the elapsed time to value by accelerating graph application implementations. That possibility creates happier customers and reduces the pressure.


Your on-premises relational DBMS and its computing infrastructure come with a fixed upper limit for data volume and processing capacity. Sometimes the demands of your application portfolio are noticeably approaching those limits.

Scalability is a major attraction of a DBaaS cloud service environment. The graph DBMS should manage large datasets with billions of nodes and relationships while still delivering lightning-fast query performance. The cloud environment typically offers instant and on-demand scalability of the computing infrastructure.

High availability computing environment

You’re proud of the high availability your on-premises computing infrastructure is delivering. However, maintaining that high availability is becoming more complex every day as end-user expectations continue to climb, operating costs are increasing, and budgets are not.

The DBaaS environment should offer these high availability features:

  1. A self-healing data centre and DBaaS architecture that delivers a 99. 5+% service uptime.
  2. Version upgrades and patches that are applied without application downtime.

Enterprise-grade security

Your security staff work hard to protect your on-premises computing infrastructure. However, their cost for staff and software is increasing. At the same time, it’s not clear that they’re keeping up with the expanding threat and landscape.

The graph DBaaS environment should offer these security features:

  1. At rest and in-transit data encryption.
  2. Encapsulation of the graph DBMS and customer data into a private, secure, isolated network.
  3. Role-based access controls.
  4. Expert shared security staff.

Simple pricing

You’re looking at a big-ticket capital cost amount to expand your on-premises computing infrastructure for next year’s budget. You know that capital cost proposal won’t be well received by the other senior executives even though they are the ones clamouring for more applications, better integration and richer data analytics.

The graph DBaaS environment should offer:

  1. Transparent, simple consumption-based pricing.
  2. Flexibility to consume more resources to meet your growing or seasonal needs.

Even when pricing is predictable, experience suggests your customers will consume more resources than you or they planned because the resources are so accessible.

Infrastructure operation

All the day-to-day issues associated with operating a computing infrastructure and delivering DBMS maintenance distract most CIOs from big-picture opportunities like digital transformation.

When you contract for a DBaaS environment, you’re outsourcing infrastructure and maintenance. Now you can focus on the big picture, and your team can focus entirely on building performant, graph-powered applications quickly.

Around-the-clock support

You’re proud of how your support staff go the extra mile. However, they want to go home from time-to-time. Your budget can’t accommodate more around-the-clock staff.

The DBaaS environment should offer these support services:

  1. Premium support with multiple response levels.
  2. Access to a large graph DBMS practitioner community.

Graph DBMS features

The available graph DBMSs from various vendors for your DBaaS environment are not created equally. They vary considerably in many respects. The primary selection criteria to consider include:

  1. Scalability or upper limits of data volume.
  2. Query performance. This selection criterion becomes especially important when applications make use of complex multi-hop queries.
  3. Ease of use for application development and operation.
  4. ACID-compliance just like your on-premises relational DBMS.
  5. Completeness and features of the graph query language.
  6. Support for concurrent transaction processing.
  7. Licensing and maintenance cost. These costs are included in the unit cost for computing resources in a SaaS environment.

For a more in-depth discussion, please read How to select a graph database.


What ideas can you contribute to help organizations select a cloud DBaaS environment? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

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