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Apollo GraphQL raises $130M to enable graph layer

The CEO and co-founder of a graph layer vendor provides insight into the growing need for the graph layer as a data technology to help connect the front end to the back end.

Apollo GraphQL said on Aug. 17 that it raised $130 million in funding to expand its efforts to grow graph layer technology.

GraphQL is an open source query protocol originally created by Facebook that enables developers to connect with and query different data sources. Development of GraphQL is now led by the GraphQL Foundation, of which Apollo is a founding  member.

Apollo GraphQL provides an enterprise graph platform that helps organizations to manage and scale a graph layer of connected data and services.

The vendor started in 2015 as part the Meteor Development group, which leads the development of the MeteorJS JavaScript framework. Meteor was acquired in 2019 by Tiny Capital, as the founders of Apollo spun out to focus on GraphQL.

In this Q&A, Geoff Schmidt, CEO and co-founder of Apollo GraphQL, discusses the intersection of open source and enterprise software and what the graph layer is all about.

Why are you now raising $130 million for your GraphQL efforts?

Geoff SchmidtGeoff Schmidt

Geoff Schmidt: We think that the impact of the graph layer is going to be as impactful as the move to the cloud. We think it's going to be a core part of the strategy that every enterprise has, that every developer has, as they think about the modern architecture they use to build their applications.

The $130 million will give us the resources we need to really continue to invest in the graph across our open source offerings and to support our enterprise customers.

We're going to proceed along multiple fronts. We're continuing to invest in next-generation graph router technology. The graph router is the thing that sits in between your client and your servers; it's like a Cisco router for your graph. It's really the beating heart of a graph that allows you to connect to many different back ends and query in one place with this the single query language that is GraphQL. So we are going to continue to improve every part of the graph router -- how fast it executes queries and the complexity of graphs that it can handle.

Another key theme will be improving security and management tools for graph. With the graph layer, there is an incredible opportunity to centralize your security policy because when everything's coming through a single point, you can have rules that you use to declaratively enforce policy for what data can be accessed.

Why did you start Apollo GraphQL in the first place?

Schmidt: The reason we built Apollo is because we learned so much from powering a huge number of apps on top of Meteor. We saw what the needs of the enterprise were where you need to connect many different data sources to many different front ends at massive scale.

We think that the impact of the graph layer is going to be as impactful as the move to the cloud. We think it's going to be a core part of the strategy that every enterprise has.
Geoff SchmidtCEO and co-founder, Apollo GraphQL

Apollo is what was originally going to be the new data layer for Meteor, and it just took off quickly.

What is the problem that GraphQL and the graph layer help solve?

Schmidt: Here's the problem: The back-end folks, they really like thinking about modular reusable pieces. But what users need is all that woven together into one experience. So, what the graph is all about is how do you build the abstraction layer that connects all those individual back-end services together?

This graph layer that we're talking about, it's the layer that sits between the front end and the business logic on the back end with databases and all these other tools. There's a ton of stuff that's going to exist inside the data center around the service mesh that connects microservices together and data catalogs to keep track of the data in a data warehouse. The challenge we're solving is how do you put a unified interface on top that hides all that complexity.

What is the intersection between open source GraphQL and Apollo's commercial efforts?

Schmidt: We are 100% committed to our open source community. We want to see the graph layer get adopted as quickly as possible.

GraphQL is a query language; it's like SQL. SQL isn't a product to us -- it's a feature. So the relationship between GraphQL and Apollo is like the relationship between SQL and PostgreSQL.

At Apollo, our goal is to bring every developer the graph because we see how so much time is wasted for app developers when they don't have access to a graph interface to access all their services. We have found a great business model where we can sell the tools that enterprises need to scale their graph, and still open source everything that developers need in their day-to-day workflows.

Editor's note: This interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.

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