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GraphQL, for the uninitiated, was developed inside Facebook as a data query language for APIs back in 2012, constituting part of its transition from mobile web wrappers to fully native mobile apps. Facebook open-sourced the project in 2015, and GraphQL was later shifted under the control of the GraphQL Foundation, which in turn was taken over by the Linux Foundation. Today, GraphQL is used by a host of companies beyond Facebook, from Netflix, Lyft, and Shopify to Amazon, GitHub, and Atlassian.
In a nutshell, GraphQL helps support the burgeoning API economy and the push towards microservices — software built from smaller purpose-built components that are easier to maintain compared to giant monolithic applications. GraphQL APIs give developers flexibility to query specific data from any number of disparate sources, and makes cross-platform app development simpler across the web, Android, iOS, and IoT.
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Business of open source
So where does Apollo come into all of this? The core Apollo graph platform unifies APIs, microservices, and databases into what is known as a data graph (though it now just refers to this as “graph”), which can be easily queried with GraphQL and put to use in client-side applications. The platform allows users to see everything that they need to build new software-based experiences in a single place, including the types of data that exist, the relationships between them and relevant documentation, what services rely on that data, when they last changed, and who’s using them.
“The graph empowers developers to deliver better experiences, faster, by providing a single place they can get all the data they need, without tightly coupling to each and every service,” Apollo cofounder and CEO Geoff Schmidt told VentureBeat. “The graph is the biggest transformation to application development since the native app and the cloud.”
Before all this, developers would usually have to generate lots of boilerplate code to access features that were spread across myriad REST APIs, meaning that they would spend a considerable amount of time finding and combining the right endpoints.
Most of the tools a developer needs to leverage the Apollo platform to connect to a GraphQL API are freely available via open source libraries on GitHub. On top of all this, the proprietary cloud-based Apollo Studio serves as a cloud management platform for engineering teams to manage their graph lifecycles. “Apollo tracks GraphQL schemas in a hosted registry to create a central source of truth for everything in your graph,” Schmidt explained. “Developers can explore data, collaborate on queries, observe usage, and deliver schema changes with agility and confidence.”
Many of the Apollo Studio features are also available for free, but Team and Enterprise plan subscribers pay to access things like alerts, client registry, schema checks, single sign-on, roles and permissions management, and more.
The story so far
Prior to now, Apollo had raised around $53 million including its $22 million series C round two years ago, and with another $130 million in the bank from investors including Insight Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Matrix Partners, and Trinity Ventures, the company is well-financed to capitalize on the growing uptake of GraphQL in the enterprise. As with just about every other popular open source project out there, there is real demand for support and managed services, which is why Apollo has lured in big-name customers such as Walmart, PayPal, Volkswagen, Expedia, and the New York Times.
“Organizations can’t leave GraphQL adoption unmanaged and as a completely grassroots effort,” Schmidt said. “Otherwise they risk delivering ad-hoc, siloed, redundant multiple graphs which can result in conflicts and breaking changes. GraphQL without strategy ultimately prevents organizations from realizing the full value of adopting GraphQL.”
The company claims it has seen a 274% growth in enterprise revenue in the past 12 months, with more than 30% of Fortune 500 companies now among its customer base.
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