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10 May 2016

Graph databases: Joining the dots

The recent breach of 2.6TB of data from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has generated a slew of revelations about how the world’s rich and powerful channel their wealth into offshore companies in a bid to avoid tax, prompting high-profile political resignations and public demands for a clampdown. But the stories would have been a lot less detailed, and taken far longer to surface, without the help of a very old technology that’s currently making a comeback – the graph database. Graph databases pre-date the relational database (RDB) model that has dominated business IT for more than 40 years. Instead of storing and manipulating data in tabular rows and columns, graph databases are structured more like the scribbled “mind maps” used for freeform note-taking – bubbles of information joined by a tangle of labelled lines that reveal the connections and relationships between them. In a graph database, information is stored in the form of nodes (items such as businesses or individuals), properties (information about, or relating to...

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