GraphQL Backend Database

The app is one of the hottest things around in the mobile industry. Developing a personal or business app is achievable if you have the time and budget to invest in app development. Still, app development can be more manageable if you use a backend framework that supports GraphQL. This article shall briefly discuss GraphQL, the benefits, and the backend platforms that support this technology.

The major headlines in this article are:

  • Introducing GraphQL
  • Creating High-Performance Queries
  • Mutations, Queries, and Subscriptions
  • GraphQL vs. REST
  • Why is GraphQL Preferred?
  • The Benefits and Demerits of GraphQL
  • GraphQL Best Usage Scenarios
  • GraphQL Deployment Through BaaS
  • BaaS Providers that Support GraphQL
  • FAQ

Introducing GraphQL

The term GraphQL is no stranger to many people. Still, many do not know its usefulness and the value it can bring to app development. GraphQL may be the technology you need to give your development project a boost.

Going back in history, Facebook developed GraphQL to resolve some internal app development challenges.  The goal is to find a more efficient way of designing the following app features in the Facebook app, which was still evolving its features back then.

  • Use API to display post lists
  • Show the users that liked every post
  • Display additional details of each user such as the name, picture, profile, friend lists, etc.

Facebook achieved all the above objectives with minimal traffic overhead by using the GraphQL API.

Creating High-Performance Queries

The GraphQL query language was designed in the quest for a fast data query system that uses data more efficiently. Such a data-efficient technology would help Facebook save millions in data transfer costs every month.

The alternative option of creating an API for each data structure while designing queries is cumbersome. GraphQL allows the developer to specify the exact data required for each database query.

The novel database query method of GraphQL presents a set of syntax and guidelines for developing data-efficient APIs. Here are the three primary features of GraphQL.

  • The developer can develop queries to request the precise data required.
  • Data can be requested from several sources using a single query.
  • It presents a novel system for describing data.

All these features allow a developer to collect multiple unique data from various sources from a single query. This approach is superior to the REST API technique that requires several calls to achieve the same result.

The GraphQL data query consists of some strings sent to the server, which interprets them and replies with a JSON. The developer can predict the shape of a GraphQL response because the reply follows the query format. Queries can be developed quickly with GraphQL once the developer knows the data required from the server.

In contrast to RESTful services and SQL-based queries that use complex join statements, GraphQL uses a hierarchical structure. This relationship-based approach to structuring data is excellent for the data scenarios that depend on hierarchical structures.

One of the benefits of GraphQL is its use of existing codes to create queries.  Therefore, the developer is not obligated to specify or assign a data store; this means that GraphQL is capable of handling any type of data it supports. Thus, a wide array of utilities can query GraphQL data to perform various tasks.

The crux of this technology is that it allows the client to create queries that determine the type of data the server returns. In a scenario where the client needs to fetch new data, adding new fields to the query gets the job done. A practical example is upgrading an existing product. Even when you deprecate a current feature, the feature’s query entry will continue to work after removing the item.

In essence, GraphQL presents an excellent avenue to implement backward compatibility into features into products, negating the need for incremental versioning.

Mutations, Queries, and Subscriptions

The schematic design of GraphQL is straightforward; it consists of three primary types for implementing various functions. These types are:

  • Mutations: This schema is designed to create, update and delete data.
  • Queries: The purpose of the query is to request data from the server.
  • Subscriptions: This opens a realtime communication channel with the server.

GraphQL vs. REST

GraphQL fits perfectly in-betweens SOAP and REST because it uses features from the two technologies. Study the table below that compares the features of the REST and GraphQL platforms.

FeaturesRESTGraphQL
UnderfetchingYesNo
OverfetchingYesNo
StatelessYesYes
CacheableYesNo
Error CodesMultiple status codesSingle 200 status codes
HTTP SemanticsPUT, GET, POST, DELETEQuery, Mutation, Subscription
EndpointMultipleSingle

Why is GraphQL Preferred?

REST API has several issues that GraphQL addressed successfully. A few of these challenges are Slow performance when API is large, overfetching, underfetching, and API versioning.

The Benefits and Demerits of GraphQL

We have discussed the challenges Facebook faced that led to developing a new query language called GraphQL. Let’s take an overview of the various benefits and shortfalls of this query language.

The Benefits:

  • Since data transfer of client and server is reduced significantly, you will be saving lots of money.
  • GraphQL is known for it’s fast response to queries irrespective of the connection speed.
  • Apps using GraohQL queries are faster
  • Enhances the stability of the backend.

The Shortfalls

  • GraphQL is a new technology you have to learn.
  • It does not support caching.
  • Every query must return code 200.

GraphQL Best Usage Scenarios

Here are some usage scenarios where GraphQL works perfectly.

  • Projects that need for quick response to queries.
  • Large projects with massive data throughput.
  • API needs to query multiple sources for data.
  • Where data must be fetched from different stacks.
  • There is a need to integrate third-party services.
  • Needs to deploy app to multiple platforms such as IoT, web, and mobile.

GraphQL Deployment Through BaaS

Using a Backend as a Service platform with GraphQL presents several benefits, including:

  • Allows the development of a primary product without excessive codes for app functions.
  • Automates database and server infrastructure management,
  • Reduces the costs of deployment significantly.

In essence, synergizing the power of GraphQL with tools and resources available on a Backend as a Service platform brings more value to app development. It allows the developer to create schemas quickly and deploy them on already configures servers without hassles.

BaaS Providers that Support GraphQL

Here are some great options to deploy a GraphQL API.

Back4App

Here are the backend companies that feature support for GraphQL. The list includes platforms offering managed services and self-hosted services as well.

The features of Back4app include:

  • Production-ready cloud server.
  • Supports SQL and NoSQL databases.
  • Offers shared hosting and self-hosting options. Supports third-party hosting line AWS, Google Cloud and Azure.
  • Offers a free plan. Premium plans start from $5/month.

Back4app offers a straightforward, flexible and scalable backend platform that uses opensource technologies such as Parse and GraphQL.

Parse

Parse is a backend platform based on the Node.js backend framework that uses opensource technology. Below is a summary of Parse’s capabilities.

  • Parse can be hosted on any cloud server. Popular options include Azure, AWS, and Digital Ocean.
  • It is freely downloadable.
  • Users can get support from the Parse opensource community.

AWS Amplify

AWS provides cloud server infrastructure along with various tools that enhance development and hosting projects.

  • Option for free download. Premium plans are based on usage.
  • Supports multiple databases.
  • AWS Amplify offers a production-ready platform.

Hasura

Hasura is another feature-packed platform that supports GraphQL. Other Hasura features include:

  • Support for Postgres database.
  • Offers production-ready servers.
  • Free plan available, and premium plans start at $99/month.

Prisma

Prima works by creating a database abstraction layer that does an excellent job of automating GraphQL API creation from a database and creating CRUD functions in realtime.

FAQ

What is GraphQL?

GraphQL consists of syntaxes and guidelines for creating APIs and building queries more efficiently.

Why Should I Use GraphQL?

GraphQL solves several drawbacks of the REST API. These include:
– Sluggish performance of Large APIs
– Overfetching,
– Underfetching, and 
– API versioning.

What are the Benefits and Demerits of GraphQL?

The Benefits
– Enhances backend stability
– Fast response to queries
– Saves costs of data transfer

Demerits
– Requires learning the query language afresh
– Does not support caching,
– Every query returns code 200.


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