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Usage of GraphQL, a query language that’s generally leveraged to load data from a server to a client, is exploding. A 2019 survey found that 62.5% of developers want to learn GraphQL. The technology now increasingly backs prominent websites including Facebook, Google, Airbnb, and Pinterest.
In the years since Facebook developed GraphQL internally and transferred ownership to the Linux Foundation, tools designed to make the language easier to use have emerged from startups including Apollo, OneGraph (acquired by Netlify), and Hasura. Hasura — which today announced that it raised $100 million in financing at a $1 billion valuation from Greenoaks, with participation from existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Vertex Ventures — offers a platform that creates GraphQL APIs from existing databases, ostensibly making it easier to build new apps or add features to existing ones.
As Peter Wayner writes for VentureBeat, traditional databases are based on a language called SQL, short for Structured Query Language. GraphQL is a simplified mechanism for presenting queries to a database, with requests that list all the desired fields and add limits to particular fields for matching or searching. GraphQL’s users often speak about its simplicity and how they’re able to craft queries that can traverse complex data structures. If the data is simple enough to fit in one table, there’s typically not much to gain from switching to GraphQL, but if the data includes multiple tables, then it can shine.
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Hasura, which is headquartered in San Francisco and Bangalore, India, was founded in 2017 by Rajoshi Ghosh and CEO Tanmai Gopal. Ghosh previously launched a food delivery app called Kadai and 34 Cross, a product development company focused on apps, websites, and microservices. Gopal was the engineering lead at 34 Cross and colaunched his food delivery service, The Brass Plate, in 2012.
“Hasura was launched in 2017 as an open-source project, with its commercial offering launched in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, which has not affected the growth of the business,” Gopal told VentureBeat via email. “Hasura is designed to make application and API development faster than ever before by eliminating bottlenecks to data access for frontend and full-stack developers. The platform cuts down the time and niche expertise required to build GraphQL APIs for data access by automating the repetitive work involved in mapping models to APIs, creating granular authorization and security policies and provides common access patterns like pagination, filtering, joining across heterogeneous sources, and aggregations out-of-the-box.”
Hasura uses an “event engine” to create a GraphQL API from either new or existing databases. The idea is to replace direct database access with a more scalable, performant, and secure API to create a “unified and federated” core data service. For example, using Hasura, developers can specify authorization rules to “safely” expose an API to developers inside or outside the organization.
According to Hasura, fintech company pipe used the platform to deploy a prototype app into production in 11 days. Pipe connected Hasura to a database to generate GraphQL APIs, reportedly saving development time by reducing the need to modify code every time a database change was made and limiting which data was returned to the individual database column and row level.
“[Hasura] is being used to simplify operational and analytical data challenges in organizations,” Hasura writes on its website. “Different approaches such as building an operational data lake with an easy data access API as well as a federated data access API are being explored, and GraphQL opens up opportunities for enabling these architectures by laying the foundation for a data mesh.”
Hasura open-sourced its software in July 2018, and since then, the startup says that tens of thousands of developers have used it to make billions of API calls. Hasura provides services on top of the freely available project, with a customer base that has grown to include Airbus, Netlify, Atlassian, and Walmart.
GraphQL has disadvantages like extra overhead and processing to parse queries. As Gartner analyst Gary Olliffe writes: “GraphQL has emerged as an alternative to REST APIs. It provides flexibility to API consumers but brings new challenges to API delivery. Application technical professionals responsible for API design, integration and management must assess GraphQL’s benefits and impact to API governance and security.”
But for customers convinced that it’s right for them, Gopal asserts that Hasura rises above GraphQL-based rivals.
“Operational data is increasingly distributed among multiple sources, with developers consuming data in insecure and unauthorized compute environments. Hasura addressed these challenges by providing flexible data APIs that can connect to multiple services and data sources, embed domain-specific authorization logic and provide the necessary security and performance [and] concurrency that modern API consumers and applications need,” Gopal continued. “Hasura’s range of data access solutions help organizations accelerate product delivery by instantly connecting data and services to applications with GraphQL APIs … [The company’s] GraphQL platform has over 450 million downloads.”
The latest funding brings 107-employee Hasura’s total raised to over $136.5 million. Gopal says that it’ll be put toward expanding Hasura’s workforce, product R&D, and customer acquisition efforts.
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