There has been some buzz lately about leveraging emergent technology such as graph databases for master data management (MDM). In theory, this is appealing, but graph databases are not ready to serve as standalone MDM systems. In this article, I offer examples of useful applications where graph databases can augment — not supplant — a conventional relational MDM platform.

In my consultancy, we always recommend the best tool to fit the purpose. Much of the time, relational databases “fit” master data — that is, the data looks like rows and columns. However, sometimes the relationship between data elements is, itself, master data. Note the difference in the words “relational” and “relationship.”

In relational databases, you know that two entities are related when you join them together by a key. In relationship-oriented data (the bread and butter of graph databases), you know two entities are related and you know the nature of the relationship. The relationship itself even has its own attributes. Yes, you can achieve this with relational databases, but not without consequences, technical debt, and sometimes an unwieldy data model.

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McKnight Consulting Group