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Neo4j Alternative: Open-Source, Distributed and Lightning Fast

Graph databases are becoming increasingly prominent in the DBMS market for its advantages in uncovering important relationships of multiple datasets. Thus, they are ideal for use cases such as real-time recommendations, fraud detection and knowledge graph constructions. Neo4j has been a leader since the early stage of the development of graph databases, therefore widely adopted by numerous organizations. However, with the explosion of data growth, organizations find sharding Neo4j too complicated and time-consuming, and looking for a solution to replace it.

To help organizations with Neo4j’s challenges of operations and performance at scale to make the critical decision of replacement, we hereby present a Neo4j alternative that is not only powerful but also open source, distributed, and fast. We also illustrate why big established companies are migrating to NebulaGraph. Welcome to the world of NebulaGraph.

NebulaGraph: Open-Source, Distributed and Lighting Fast

NebulaGraph has cemented its name in the DBMS market as a lightning fast graph database with millisecond latency. Extremely huge quantities of graph data can be processed at speeds, which is a delight to any data scientist or developer.

As we lay out the following strengths that make NebulaGraph standout as a go-to alternative to Neo4j, you will notice that the strengths that make NebulaGraph a better alternative are those very qualities that those who work with data crave to see in a DBMS.

From flexibility to efficiency that dazzles, let's see why NebulaGraph is finding wide acceptance as a perfect alternative and a solution to the challenges that many users encounter with Neo4j.

Top strengths of NebulaGraph over Neo4j

  • Shared-nothing distributed architecture
  • Excellent at processing ultra large-scale connected data sets that have hundreds of billions of nodes and trillions of edges
  • No bottleneck whatsoever when it comes to single-master write
  • Supports linear expansion of reading and writing

Let’s now get into the details;

1. Performance

NebulaGraph is highly performant thanks to RocksDB, the powerful storage engine that offers high throughput plus low latency read and write. The design is best described as state of the art, capable of achieving the following:

  • Fast graph traversals (including complex graph traversals)
  • Efficient memory use
  • Real-time write performance
  • Concurrent user access at very high levels
  • Fast batch data import
  • Efficient n-hop query performance

Fact: Of all the open source graph database options in the market today, NebulaGraph is the only one that is capable of processing graph data that contains trillions of edges and vertices.

Read: Why the Meituan team selected NebulaGraph as their graph storage engine after they performed intensive comparison tests.

2. High availability

This is another advantage that accrues from the horizontal scalability capability. Even in the midst of failures, you can be sure that NebulaGraph will be available.

An in-built snapshot feature makes it possible to capture snapshots of instances. You can then use these snapshots to restore data to any specific point in time. In case of data loss, the snapshots will come in handy.

What will happen if an instance fails? NebulaGraoh will get the failed instance out of the cluster, then create a new instance based on the snapshot. This new one will replace the failed instance. Remember all this happens automatically in real-time, and you can see everything, which is important for transparency.

3. Horizontal scalability

When it comes to scalability, NebulaGraph provides linear scalability - thanks to a shared nothing architecture. With this, you are able to add more and more nodes as well as services to the cluster without fearing a likelihood to compromise performance.

Additionally, you need not make any changes to the configurations of the nodes whenever you want to scale horizontally - as long as the bandwidth is enough. It’s the best scalable graph database out here.

4. Efficiency

NebulaGraph uses its own query language known as nGQL. The good thing with this query language is that it's very easy to understand, learn how it works and use. The greatest highlight of nGQL is that it transforms complex SQL queries to simple, brief queries. This single feature introduces significant efficiency that you will find hard to come by in Neo4j.

NGQL is also compatible with ISO-GQL and openCypher. With this level of compatibility, you are able to cut down on costs associated with learning and migration (more on migration shortly). Compatibility is another huge win for efficiency.

5. Flexibility

NebulaGraph works perfectly well wherever you take it. On-premises, macOS/Windows, public cloud, or hybrid cloud, NebulaGraph will work smoothly all the way.

Additionally, it comes with visualization tools that are so easy to use from the browser. This kind of flexibility unchains users and enables them to apply the database in creative ways.

6. Graph RAG (Retrieval-Augmented Generation)

NebulaGraph's Graph RAG is the first of its kind in the industry. It combines knowledge graphs with LLMs to enhance search results, meaning the results are intelligent, accurate and the process is cost-effective.

This is a welcome relief from the traditional methods which depend on keyword matching which is not effective especially when it comes to long tail queries.

Also Read: Graph RAG vs. Graph + Vector RAG


Visualization is a key pillar of graph databases, and NebulaGraph offers multiple amazing visualization tools, including:

8. Algorithm

The Nebula Algorithm is a GraphX- based Spark application that submits a Spark task to perform computing on data in a NebulaGraph database.

It's also possible to use the algorithm programmatically under the lib repository to accomplish graph computing on dataframe.

Please go through the overview of the NebulaGraph algorithm.

9. Zero Learning Curve

nGQL, the query language for NebulaGraph, is gradually compatible with openCypher. This means new adopters can simply get started without worrying about the learning curve.

This is a very important quality because it means developers can get started with no complications, while operations professionals can equally work with Nebula Graph without being intimidated on the technical side.

Here is a quick glance at what nGQL supports:

  • Graph traversals
  • Aggregation
  • Access control
  • Composite queries
  • Index

nGQ is constantly being improved and new features added to ensure the best experience for users.

10. A vibrant open-source community

The ever vibrant NebulaGraph community, through Nebula Contrib, boasts many contributions from members. Many tools have been contributed so far, including these that have recently been embraced:

Use cases for NebulaGraph

NebulaGraph is versatile in application with following use cases:

Case Study

We have seen many users migrating from Neo4j to NebulaGraph for better operation and performance at scale. Guotai Junan Securities is one of those looking for horizontal scalability, better graph inquiry and computing capabilities as well as enterprise support. Guotai Junan adopted Neo4j in 2018 for knowledge graphs for the corporation itself and industrial supply chain. However, in face of the changing business scenarios and needs, they decided to migrate to an alternative which excels at elastic capabilities of expansion and contraction. Meanwhile, as the business scenarios involve equity penetration, ultimate beneficiary as well as other business-related algorithms, the alternative needs to handle at least 10,000 API calls a day with second-level latency requirement.

After the thorough evaluation of all the alternatives in the market, they finally chose to migrate to NebulaGraph Enterprise edition in 2023. With the successful migration, Guotai Junan Securities‘ graph platform based on NebulaGraph has a significant improvement in terms of overall performance and stability, effectively creating more value for the business development.

Migrating from Neo4j to NebulaGraph

It's easy to migrate data from Neo4j to NebulaGraph, thanks to NebulaGraph Exchange. This is NebulaGraph's migration tool that uses Spark to support the importation and high performance of huge datasets.

Here is an easy guide to help you migrate from Neo4j to NebulaGraph. Please contact us should you experience difficulties in understanding any part.

It's common knowledge that a good number of companies went to Neo4j for graph-related use cases. However, at present, these companies are discovering it's no longer meeting their constantly changing needs especially on scalability and performance.

In fact, many enterprise customers of NebulaGraph confess that they made the decision because they were looking for alternatives to Neo4j and finally chose NebulaGraph.


Big corporations in key industries have tested and compared NebulaGraph against Neo4j. The results have been amazing and this explains the reason a good number are migrating to Nebula Graph.

As the NebulaGraph ecosystem and community continues to grow at record speed, the team behind this powerful graph database is focussed on delivering a graph database landscape where users will spend more time deriving value as opposed to solving challenges.

Try NebulaGraph free, available in both AWS and Microsoft Azure.