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Alation 2021.1 data catalog improves data intelligence

Alation updated its platform with new features for data discovery and search, as well as more data governance capabilities to enhance data trust.

Alation released the first major update of 2021 for its namesake data intelligence platform with the general availability of Alation 2021.1.

At the core of the Alation platform is data catalog technology that enables organizations to better understand what data they have and how to use it for analytics and business intelligence.

Alation Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif., has been expanding its platform in recent years to enable what it refers to as data intelligence, providing information on where data comes from with data lineage as well as enabling data governance capabilities for managing data.

In the Alation 2021.1 update, released on Feb. 18, the vendor added enhanced data governance capabilities for users to understand data quality. The 2021.1 update also integrates the company's Open Connect Framework software development kit, which aims to make it easier for users to build connectors for different data sources.

IDC analyst Stewart Bond said the latest release of Alation expands connectivity and lowers barriers to using the platform within organizations. The new features in the update are beneficial because intelligence about data improves as more sources can be included, and as more people are involved in curating the intelligence that Alation captures, he said.

"Alation was an early mover in the data intelligence software market and helped define the modern data catalog software category," Bond said. "This new release of Alation demonstrates its commitment to continuous improvement, as it works hard to demonstrate innovation and differentiation in an increasingly competitive market."

Screenshot of Alation 2021.1 data intelligence platform
Alation 2021.1 includes a new Data Domains capability that can improve relevancy by organizing, searching and discovering information by logical concepts such as 'business unit.'

How Alation 2021.1 data catalog features advance data intelligence

In terms of new features, Bond said the federated authentication capabilities in the Alation update make it easier for users to actively work with cloud applications and data sources. User provisioning has also been improved to ease integration with corporate directories and accelerate onboarding, he said.

Alation was an early mover in the data intelligence software market and helped define the modern data catalog software category.
Stewart BondAnalyst, IDC

More search capabilities make it easier for users to find the data they are looking for, improving usability and relevancy, Bond said.

Aaron Kalb, co-founder and chief data and analytics officer at Alation, explained that the improved search capabilities help to enable data domains. A data domain is a grouping for related data and context.

"Data domains really helps with search and discovery to make the most relevant information pop and be really easy to find," Kalb said.

A data domain is a different from but complementary to data classification, which helps organize data by type.

Alation has long provided data classification, which is largely concerned with properties of data, such as identifying an address or phone number. In contrast, Kalb explained that a data domain provides a mapping of data to a semantic area of a business and is a way to find relevant data faster.

"The goal is to provide a very simple system that allows customers to categorize data the way they want, so it will be useful for them," Kalb said.

Data governance feature tweaks

Another key area of improvement in the upgraded data intelligence platform update is its data governance capabilities.

The data governance enhancements involve improving trust in data, Kalb said.

More specifically, the new features enable users to take data lineage information about where data comes from and make it more actionable. Based on the data lineage information and how the data is collected, users can better understand the potential impact of a given data set.

"The new features in Alation 2021.1 really help us advance our mission of making a data catalog that is a one-stop shop for relevant, trustworthy data," Kalb said.

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