Gremlin repeatMode query hint - Amazon Neptune
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Gremlin repeatMode query hint

The Neptune repeatMode query hint specifies how the Neptune engine evaluates the repeat() step in a Gremlin traversal: breadth first, depth first, or chunked depth first.

The evaluation mode of the repeat() step is important when it is used to find or follow a path, rather than simply repeating a step a limited number of times.


The repeatMode query hint is specified by adding a withSideEffect step to the query.

g.withSideEffect('Neptune#repeatMode', 'mode').gremlin-traversal

All Gremlin query hints side effects are prefixed with Neptune#.

Available Modes
  • BFS

    Breadth-First Search

    Default execution mode for the repeat() step. This gets all sibling nodes before going deeper along the path.

    This version is memory-intensive and frontiers can get very large. There is a higher risk that the query will run out of memory and be cancelled by the Neptune engine. This most closely matches other Gremlin implementations.

  • DFS

    Depth-First Search

    Follows each path to the maximum depth before moving on to the next solution.

    This uses less memory. It may provide better performance in situations like finding a single path from a starting point out multiple hops.


    Chunked Depth-First Search

    A hybrid approach that explores the graph depth-first in chunks of 1,000 nodes, rather than 1 node (DFS) or all nodes (BFS).

    The Neptune engine will get up to 1,000 nodes at each level before following the path deeper.

    This is a balanced approach between speed and memory usage.

    It is also useful if you want to use BFS, but the query is using too much memory.


The following section describes the effect of the repeat mode on a Gremlin traversal.

In Neptune the default mode for the repeat() step is to perform a breadth-first (BFS) execution strategy for all traversals.

In most cases, the TinkerGraph implementation uses the same execution strategy, but in some cases it alters the execution of a traversal.

For example, the TinkerGraph implementation modifies the following query.


The repeat() step in this traversal is "unrolled" into the following traversal, which results in a depth-first (DFS) strategy.


The Neptune query engine does not do this automatically.

Breadth-first (BFS) is the default execution strategy, and is similar to TinkerGraph in most cases. However, there are certain cases where depth-first (DFS) strategies are preferable.

BFS (Default)

Breadth-first (BFS) is the default execution strategy for the repeat() operator.


The Neptune engine fully explores the first nine-hop frontiers before finding a solution ten hops out. This is effective in many cases, such as a shortest-path query.

However, for the preceding example, the traversal would be much faster using the depth-first (DFS) mode for the repeat() operator.


The following query uses the depth-first (DFS) mode for the repeat() operator.

g.withSideEffect("Neptune#repeatMode", "DFS").V("3").repeat(out()).times(10).limit(1)

This follows each individual solution out to the maximum depth before exploring the next solution.