Alation Data Catalog

Alation is an American software provider, which was founded in 2012 in Redwood City, California. The company now operates worldwide and has 483 employees, 385 of whom are full time. Customers come from a wide variety of industries and the software has no particular vertical focus. Alation offers a data catalog solution, collaborates with different partners and also provides educational services. It is funded by venture capital companies, as well as other technology companies.

A series D investment round in June 2021 raised funding worth $110 million, which is planned to be invested in sales and marketing, the customer journey and research and development. In total, Alation has raised $192 million since 2015.

In 2015, Alation launched its first data catalog tool to make enterprise data accessible. The Alation Data Catalog evolved, features were added and today its data intelligence platform helps enterprises to get value from data efficiently with data governance functionality included. At the time of writing, the current version is 2021.3 and is built to support all types of users. The tool can be customized for specific users, based on role models. It supports technical metadata but also business metadata to make data understandable for everyone. Collaboration is one of its strengths: for example, it uses a crowdsourced approach for curation and to gamify the process of populating the platform with metadata.

The Alation Data Catalog uses a proprietary metadata model and can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, with a cloud native architecture, and in hybrid mode. In the cloud, it can be operated on AWS, Google Cloud Platform or MS Azure. Most customers follow a hybrid model. Alation supports a wide range of data sources, including relational, NoSQL, filesystem, BI tools and many other types besides. Alation connectors inherently enable metadata extraction, profiling, sampling and query log ingestion. If no native connector is available for a particular data source, there is an option to create a custom one via Open Connector SDK and CustomDB. To import and export metadata into the data catalog, Alation provides (REST) APIs. There is also the Alation Micro Services (AMS) framework, which allows customers to integrate modern applications via API or webhook. Alation’s built-in SQL query generator automatically generates popularity scores of data, identifies top users and generates SQL filters and joins as well as enabling the user to get direct access to data. So, business analysts can access data, search and do data discovery in one tool.

For data consumption, Alation provides quick and advanced search functionality, which differs in aggregation and depth of search capabilities. To narrow down search results, anything within the data catalog can be searched. Nesting and filtering is supported. Moreover, advanced functionality to analyze metadata such as visual end-to-end data lineage (business and technical) with impact reports and basic collaboration is provided. Alation uses various ML methods to support users (e.g., to automate keyword detection, to understand data better by ‘auto-understanding’ or analyzing the data). This also includes behavioral metadata, which is generated by analyzing log files to derive the frequency of use, thus determining a measure of relevance for the data set.

User & Use Cases

Alation is used by the majority of its customers for data governance (77 percent), data discovery (77 percent) and data stewardship / data quality management (73 percent). 37 percent even use it for data warehousing / BI and 33 percent as a data lake. This is surprising because Alation Data Catalog is a tool for metadata management and does not store data. However, a catalog is a beneficial extension for those environments. Given that, it is remarkable that 63 percent of users are using Alation as a ‘query engine’ leveraging direct access to data. This feature seems to be useful to enterprises. It is positive to see that 33 percent of respondents use Alation as a ‘holistic data platform’, which means that users have access to, or at least, get information about, all the company’s data.

None of our survey respondents came from companies with fewer than 100 employees. 33 percent came from medium-sized and 67 percent from large companies. The median of 200 users per company is high and suggests that Alation is used by a broad range of users within companies. The mean of 482 also shows that the tool can serve higher numbers of users. However, considering that Alation is primarily used in large companies with over 2,500 employees, there is still scope for the tool to be rolled out to more users. The average of six administrators per implementation is well below average and quite low for a tool that serves an average of 482 users.

Current use


Total number of users per company


Total number of administrators per company


Company size (number of employees)


Summary of Alation Data Catalog highlights

Alation’s Data Catalog earned two top-ranks and five leading positions in this year’s Data Management Survey. Overall, 13 out of 17 KPIs were rated above average and very few problems were reported. 90 percent of surveyed users said they would recommend the tool to others, which is an excellent endorsement of the product. When asked about the main reasons why they chose to buy Alation Data Catalog, 71 percent said that the ‘solution met our requirements’ for the purposes of data governance, data discovery and data quality management. Notably, 64 percent also highlighted its ‘ease of use for business users’, which is well above the average of 27 percent for all products.

Innovation – Top-ranked

Peer group: Data Governance Products

Innovation Power – Top-ranked

Peer group: Data Governance Products

Platform Reliability – Leader

Peer group: Data Governance Products

Recommendation – Leader

Peer group: Data Governance Products

Usability – Leader

Peer group: Data Governance Products

Want to see the whole picture?

BARC’s Vendor Performance Summary contains an overview of The Data Management Survey results based on feedback from Alation Data Catalog users, accompanied by expert analyst commentary.

Contact us to purchase the Vendor Performance Summary


Alation Data Catalog

Peer Groups Data Governance Products
Number of responses30
ProductAlation Data Catalog
Offices3 (HQ in Redwood City, CA)
Employees385 / 483 (including contractors)
Customers260+ (85 last year)
Revenues (2020)Not disclosed

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Great solution and Alation leadership is investing in the right places in their product roadmap. Alation University and Alation Community are also well thought out solutions that add even more benefit to the Alation Catalog.
Enterprise architect, consumer packaged goods, more than 2,500 employees
This tool has been a game-changer for our company. Never before have we had a centralized catalog that made finding data so easy. Before Alation, it was emails, phone calls, water cooler conversations to learn about where data is.
Person responsible/project manager for BI from IT department, manufacturing, more than 2,500 employees
It is a well thought of and innovative tool for data governance.
Head of business department, media/ publishing, 100-2,500 employees
The Data Catalog can be used for so much more than a data catalog. We use it as a central hub for all things data. They are great about implementing new features and listening to their customers for ideas and feedback. The fact that they have a A community site to encourage networking with both Alation developers and other clients is a great feature.
Person responsible/project manager for BI from IT department, insurance, 100-2,500 employees
The ease of use for both technical and business users. The reliability. Virtually zero failures or defects. Strong universal search feature. Alation support (including our CRM CJ) top-notch..
Enterprise architect, insurance, more than 2,500 employees