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April 20, 2015

Startup Delivers Visual Search Tool for Neo4j Graphs

Organizations looking to give their business analysts a quick and easy way to explore and visualize data stored in Neo4j graph databases may want to check out Linkurius, which today debuted the enterprise version of its Web-based graph visualization tool.

Graph databases are on the rise, thanks to the powerful way they organize connected data sets. The Neo4j database from Neo Technology–by far the most popular graph database today–provides a solid foundation for building next-generation apps that blend transactional and analytical capabilities.

As graph databases started gaining traction, more organizations started using them to find new insights in their data for use cases such as fraud detection and network management. But these early adopters lacked easy-to-use tools to explore graphs, says Jean Villedieu, co-founder and sales and marketing chief for Linkurious, which is based in Paris.

“The problem with graph databases is you don’t have tools that can make it easy for end users, for business people, to extract information,” Villedieu tells Datanami. “In relational databases, there are tools like Tableau, Qlikview, and all the business intelligence solutions that do a great job of making sense of relational data. But there’s nothing for graph data. You only have tools that are designed for scientists, like Gephi.”

Gephi, of course, is the open source graph visualization tool that was co-developed by Dr. Sébastien Heymann, who is the CEO of Linkurious. Gephi, which has seen more than 1 million downloads since it debuted in 2008, is popular with scientists and researchers. In 2012, Heymann began working with a team at Stanford University to make graph visualizations more accessible to regular users, and founded Linkurious a year later.Linkurious_logo

Linkurious allows business analysts with average skills to be able to explore data stored in a graph database through a combination of visualizations and keyword searches. Once pointed at a Neo4j database, Linkurious users can query the graph with a keyword search, see their results displayed graphically as nodes and edges, filter the data further (if needed), and then drill down into the data to explore connections.

It’s all about surfacing the underlying graph database in an intuitive and visual manner, Villedieu says. “We have a lot of customers who are analysts and who are used to thinking about the data in terms of connections,” he says. “They just didn’t have the tools to see the connections.”

Linkurious isn’t the first company with graph visualization tools, of course. Palantir and IBM both offer high-end graph solutions. In the Neo4j world, there are others, which the company discusses on its website. Neo4j even ships a graph visualization library with its product. But according to Villedieu, the problem with these options is that they’re designed for data scientists or developers–not for the end-users themselves.

“The only option you had was to build your own visualization application on top of Neo4j,” he says. “With Linkcurious, I don’t need to have a PhD in network theory or anything–just the ability to use a mouse and a search engine.”

Linkurious—which plans to support other graph databases with its software in the future–has been adopted by about 200 organizations around the world since the software was released in 2013. Among the companies using Linkurious are big names like EBay, Cisco, and the French Ministry of Finances. Fraud detection, network management, logistics, and genomics are among the early use cases.

Another early adopter is the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which used Linkurious to discover allegedly fraudulent schemes buried within 60,000 files detailing bank account information of more than 100,000 clients of the Swiss banking giant HSBC, the so-called “Swiss Leaks” investigation.

Linkurious lets users explore graph database visually, in point-and-click manner, from a Web browser

Linkurious lets users explore graph database visually, in point-and-click manner, from a Web browser

“Linkurious Enterprise allowed our remote team of dozens of reporters to easily sift through complex financial data to uncover persons of interest and potential stories–all in a visual and very intuitive way,” Mar Cabra, ICIJ’s data journalism manager, says in a press release.

There are now two versions of Linkurious, including the original version, called the Starter edition, as well as the new Enterprise edition, which was unveiled today. For an annual subscription of €1,990 per user, Linkurious Enterprise’ customers get all the benefits of Linkurious Starter (€990 per user per year), plus:

  • the capability to restrict what graph data user can access, with read/write permissions set via LDAP;
  • the capability for multiple people to share visualizations and collaborate on their discoveries;
  • and the capability to customize the visualizations, including giving nodes and edges certain properties.

Just as a rich ecosystem of business intelligence tools built up around relational databases, so too will a market rise for new types of BI tools that run on newer database types, including graph databases. While the graph database companies themselves may provide some tooling for building apps, they’re going to lean on partners to provide the end-user solutions.

Linkurious may be on the leading edge of that trend, but by no means will it be the only player. As graph databases expand in the coming years, you can expect to find a rich array of BI tools that sit atop the graphs and simplify the average human’s ability to understand the complex data connections occurring below.

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