The name gives it away, but Apollo GraphQL has long focused on helping developers use the GraphQL query language for APIs to integrate data from different services. In recent years, it has also worked with large enterprises to help them bring together data from a wide variety of sources into one “supergraph,” as the company likes to call it. Now, these capabilities, previously the domain of large enterprises such as Expedia, Walmart, and Zillow, are available to everyone on its platform.
Apollo CEO and co-founder Geoff Schmidt weren’t shy about what he thinks this announcement means when I spoke to him ahead of today’s announcement. “We’ve been working on GraphQL since 2016 when we were still Meteor.js. But we have to announce today why we’ve built the company over all these years and through all these open-source projects,” he said. “It’s something that I think will be as important in history as the database, messaging bus, containerization, or maybe even the cloud itself.”
That’s a lot to live up to.
“The Super graph is a whole new way to think about GraphQL and what it’s for and delivers,” continued Schmidt. “I think the main idea of the Supergraph is the graph of graphs. It’s how these individual graphs that people have built come together in a new layer of the stack – another way to build applications – something that’s just as important for how we will use the stack in the future if the database was.”
Schmidt argues that as enterprises split their monolithic application architectures and moved to microservices, everything became so fused that it now puts the burden on developers to put everything back together when they want to build a new application on top of these systems.
At the heart of the Supergraph are three projects. The first is the Apollo Router, a Rust-based runtime that processes GraphQL queries, then schedules and executes them across federated subgraphs, and sends those responses back to the customer. According to the company, this router is 10x faster than the old Apollo Gateway, which the company previously used for querying federated graphs. The second piece is a set of new capabilities or the free tier of Apollo Studio, the company’s data source management tool. The free deck now includes schema checks to ensure a new schema doesn’t break and existing applications and a launch dashboard that provides insight into the schema check and launch process that was previously only available to business users. And the third piece is Apollo Federation 2, launched in April and allowed users to build their subgraphs into a single Supergraph.
Schmidt emphasized that the company is not trying to replicate data lakes here for analytic use cases but a layer in the stack that allows developers to build new use cases.
“It’s not just about how many pizzas I sell, but can I order a pizza? You want to create something that is almost like a virtual database — or a virtual server — that has objects that represent everything in a company: every customer, every product, every order, every like, every blog post — and you want to be able to questions like ‘show me all the orders this customer has made,’ even though all that stuff lives in 1000 different shifts,’ explains Schmidt.
It will be interesting to see if the Supergraph can live up to the hype of Apollo. The company’s GraphQL client, server, and gateway are downloaded more than 17 million times monthly. The company says its products in production are used by 30% of the Fortune 500. With Supergraph, the company hopes to establish itself as a core part of the modern development stack.