NoSQL Graph Database

What’s New in Neo4j 1.4?

Jessica Thornsby

“There are a large number of Neo4j core optimizations planned.”

After six milestones, Neo4j 1.4 is now
, with a list of new features, including a new query
language, an auto-indexing framework, and a paging mechanism for
traversers. We speak to the co-founder of Neo4j, Peter Neubauer, on
some of the new features in this latest release.

JAXenter: Neo4j 1.4 is now generally available
with support for the Cypher language. What does Cypher add, for
Neo4j users?

Peter Neubauer: It allows for expressive and
efficient querying of the graph store without having to write Java
Neo4j traversers in code.

Cypher is designed to be a humane query language, suitable for
both developers and – importantly, we think – operations
professionals who want to make ad-hoc queries on the database. Its
constructs are based on English prose and neat iconography, which
helps to make it – somewhat – self-explanatory.

Cypher is inspired by a number of different approaches and
builds upon established practices for expressive querying. Most of
the keywords like WHERE and ORDER BY are inspired by SQL. Pattern
matching borrows expression approaches from SPARQL. Regular
expression matching is implemented using the Scala programming

Cypher is a declarative language. It focuses on the clarity of
expressing what to retrieve from a graph, not how to do it, in
contrast to imperative languages like Java and Scala, and scripting
languages like Groovy (Gremlin) or Ruby (JRuby Neo4j bindings).
This makes the concern of how to optimize queries in implementation
detail not exposed to the user.

JAXenter: What does the new auto-indexing
framework add, on top of the existing index framework?

Peter: With auto-indexing, indexes can be
configured once, and then listen to transactions and changes in the
database. This saves the overhead of including index updates
explicitly into mutating transactions, and the overhead to remove
and update indexes as part of your domain code.

Auto-indexing is not replacing manual control, so that for
non-trivial scenarios like conditional and complex rules for
indexing, or complex indexing values you still can use the full
atomic index API.

JAXenter: How has the REST API developed, in
this release?

Peter: Mostly, the concept of paging has been
added to the traversal methods, and a batch-mode for REST
operations has been introduced, where all listed REST operations
are executed in the same transaction. This mitigates two of the
major shortcomings of REST as a concept – statefulness and
transaction support.

Also, new plugins for Gremlin and Cypher are now part of the standard
Neo4j Server distribution, largely eliminating the need to write
Java Plugins to achieve custom functionality and good performance.
They let you execute scripting code on the server, and return
collections of the normal REST collections of Nodes, Relationships
and Paths, or primitives like Strings.

JAXenter: What are the next steps, for the
Neo4j project?

Peter: For the next versions, we are working on
developing Cypher into a full Graph Query Language. Also, there are
a large number of Neo4j core optimizations planned to improve
caching, high-load performance and resilience to the JVM Garbage
Collector in high load scenarios as Neo4j is increasingly being
used in large, mission critical projects. Also, we want to add
better remoting than REST via binary protocols. We are looking to
database store optimizations regarding storage
volume, compression and encryption. Also, the enterprise features
like replication, failover and distribution are seeing big
improvements based on the feedback from users. But in the end, our
roadmap is a balance of features from our great community, and of
the requirements of our customers. We are working in a time-boxed
manner, so it is very hard to exactly say what features will make
it for 1.5.

Further out, we are really looking forward to get started with
graph distribution and integration with other NoSQL and relational
for Neo4j 2.0.

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