Spring and Neo4J integration - A Quick WebApp



Following my experimentation with MongoDB and the SpringData integration, I was keen to try out a few other NoSQL options - notably something outside of a document based data store. I had heard about a competition asking for submissions for Neo4J on the Heroku platform, which initially sparked my interest (although as of yet I have not tried it on Heroku) and seeing as Spring Data already had the Neo4J integration I thought I would have a go at it. Plus, I enjoy graphs as a data structure. I have fairly recently done some work on graphs having to implement Dijkstra's algorithm (also the A*) so this seemed like it was going to be fun.

Firstly, the documentation, in the form of an online e-book, for Neo4J Spring Data is awesome. Some guys have put together the e-book based on their experience setting up a Neo4J website and it really does cover everything from the first steps through to more complex stuff around traversal and transaction management. This also means, there is little point in me going through my every step in my app, as it wouldnt be very different from their advice, so most importantly, read this!!!

I will however, just highlight some interesting points i discovered along the way:

1. Simple Annotation based Entites
As you would expect, much like JPA or MongoDB, Neo4J supports simple annotation based configuration of your domain model to simply and quickly describe some pretty rich graph relationships. This is not that unexpected, as it is Spring after all, but worth noting that it is pretty comprehensive and easy to use.


2. Magic Repository Methods
A bit like in Grails, the Neo4J supports "magic" methods, that allow you to just define method names and the query implementation will be completed for you. For example, in your Movie repository (As per the book example, and also my example) if you defined a method such as:

Movie getMovieById(String id);

Then you do not need to provide an implementation, and Spring will automagically do the rest. (the convention being get[DOMAIN_ENTITY]By[ENTITY_PROPERTY]()

From the book: "In our wildest dreams we imagined the method names we would come up with, and what kinds of queries those could generate"

3. Arbor JS Graph Framework
A little while ago I discovered the Arbor JS framework for visualisation of graphs, and its really nice - I had to try and achieve something similar some time last year and got some of the way using core html5/JS but this library is a lot more comprehensive so wanted to have a go.
First, you should check out the demos over at http://arborjs.org/, they are really nice, and make for a really nice graph UI (see screenshot of my app).


4. The Data
I wanted to get some real data, and looked at a few big datasets available online such as the Stanford Large Data Set Network but being as Im only running locally, and I didnt really want to spend too much time getting the data into my graph model I decided to go for a far smaller, simpler dataset - this years Oscar nominations (actors/directors/movies/awards - hopefully you can make out the graph from the screenshot). The data I got from the Guardian (probably UK only) data set blog which also had some nice data sets in it, but this one seemed to be a small enough size for me not to loose too much time to the data.


As always, the code is up on my github, so feel free to check it out, fork/download/mistreat etc..

rob hinds

I'm on to the next one, on to the next one..

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