Combining properites from different nodes in Gremlin

One of the key differences between SQL databases and graph databases is the concept of joining information from different nodes. In a tinkerpop-enabled graph database nodes have labels that define their type and properties that are part of that type. It’s natural to draw the comparison to a label being an SQL table and the properties of the nodes being the columns of that table. But trying to extend that analogy to compare joining in SQL is a little murky. Insead of joining two tables together, it’s better to think about visiting different nodes and saving their information for later use. In gremlin you can achieve this in a few differnt ways but the most common is to use the as-step. The example below shows how to combine information using the “Modern” graph that is shipped with tinkerpop. Here there are two types of nodes, person and software; each have a “name” property. If you want a mapping of which people created which software you could do:

    project('creator_name', 'software_name').

In the example above the traversal starts with all of the people and saves the information in the variable, s, that’s what the as('s') is doing. It then travels to the software nodes, using out('created'). To get the information from both the software and the person I use the project-step, which creates a new structure. In this case it will be a mapping with creator_name and software_name as the keys. To get the creator name I use the select-step that recalls the information that was stored previously using the variable, s. The traversal above will produce a pair-wise mapping like so:

{creator_name=marko, software_name="lop"}
{creator_name=peter, software_name="lop"}
{creator_name=josh, software_name="lop"}

The other method of combining data is to use the group-step. In this case the returned structure will have a mapping based on how you group:

  1. with the person as the key

  2. or with the software name as the key


The first query gives you a dictionary where the persons name is the key and the values are a list of software names created by that person, like the following:

   marko: [lop],
   josh: [lop, ripple],
   peter: [lop]

The second version turns it around so that the software is the key and the creators are the list of values:

    lop: [marko, peter, josh],
    ripple: [josh]

Whether to use the query based on the as-step or the gorup-step is dependant on the structure that you want at the end and the performance. In my experience, grouping takes longer than using the asproject method and is more flexible too. You can save multiple steps in your traversal with different variable names and recall them at the appropriate time.