Alation Data Catalog
Alation is a software provider that aims to help enterprises create a data culture where anyone can find, understand and trust data. Founded in 2012 in Redwood City, California, the company now operates worldwide in 32 countries and has 650 employees, about 35 percent of whom work in R&D. The company’s 400+ customers come from a wide variety of industries and the software is vertical-agnostic. Today, Alation collaborates with more than 20 implementation partners, more than 40 strategic technology/ecosystem partners and 80+ channel partners. Growth is set to be accelerated through expansion into additional geographies and new product offerings (e.g., the Data Governance App).
Started as a data catalog tool in 2015, Alation today provides a data intelligence platform with integrated, shared services to integrate, curate, enrich and analyze metadata that can be accessed and utilized by various “apps” (e.g., for search and discovery, data governance, analytics and operations). In May 2022, Alation announced the Open Data Quality Initiative, which introduced a number of third-party integrations to cover a broad range of data intelligence use cases including advanced requirements for data quality and observability.
The platform is built to support all types of users, providing business and technical context out of an extendable metadata repository to make data understandable for everyone. Alation is mainly used by business users for self-service analytics, but also for data governance and to accelerate data migration. It focuses on collecting, linking and analyzing various kinds of metadata rather than data. An SQL Editor supports data querying.
The tool is adaptable to the needs of the customer system, data and process landscape. It can be operated and managed by customers on-premises, or in private or public cloud environments. Alation is suitable for departmental or enterprise-wide scenarios. It provides a comprehensive set of connectors to integrate a wide range of metadata sources, including relational, NoSQL, filesystem, BI tools and many others besides. AI/ML methods can be applied to automate the time-consuming process of integrating and mapping metadata. Alation also provides a configurable workflow engine to design data governance processes.
For data consumption, Alation provides quick and advanced search functionality for various kinds of metadata. Moreover, advanced functionality to analyze metadata such as visual end-to-end data lineage (business and technical) with impact reports provides transparency to users. Alation uses various ML methods to support users (e.g., to automate keyword detection, to understand data better through ‘auto-understanding’ or analyzing the data). This also includes behavioral metadata, which generates additional valuable information by analyzing log files to derive the frequency of use, thus determining a measure of relevance for the data set.
To build trust in data, the platform supports stewardship functions for data quality and policy management. The real strength of the platform lies in its collaboration capabilities: it enables users to interact with each other and fosters the production of additional metadata, which provides valuable information about the relevance and usage of data and analytics objects. Overall, Alation relies heavily on the crowd to link and provide various metadata such as business, technical, operational, governance, behavioral and feedback metadata in order to enrich data knowledge.
Alation’s roadmap revolves around simplifying the use of metadata to gain data intelligence. For example, the company is investing in supporting NLP through the acquisition of Lyngo. This is intended to enhance the business user experience with more intuitive access to metadata.
User & Use Cases
Alation is used by the majority of its customers for data discovery (81 percent, which is 4 percent more than last year), data governance (74 percent, -3), and data stewardship / data quality management (74 percent / +1). 35 percent (-2) even use it to support data warehousing / BI and 35 percent (+2) for data lake processes. It is also notable that 63 percent (-5) of customers are using Alation as a ‘query engine’ leveraging direct access to data. This is surprising because Alation is focused on metadata rather than on accessing data directly. However, this feature seems to be useful to enterprises. It is positive to see that 32 percent (-1) 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.
Only 3 percent of our survey respondents came from companies with fewer than 100 employees. 29 percent came from medium-sized and 68 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 483 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.
Total number of users per company
Company size (number of employees)
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