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Alation boosts data intelligence with Open Data Quality

The vendor's latest update brings users more integration options to connect with data quality tools and adds more capabilities for data governance to the data catalog platform.

Data intelligence vendor Alation is out with a new release of its namesake platform alongside a new Open Data Quality Initiative that brings together multiple vendors in the data quality market.

Alation, based in Redwood City, Calif., on May 24 released version 2022.2 of its namesake platform that integrates updated governance and data lineage capabilities.

Alation got its start primarily as a data catalog technology and has steadily evolved in recent years to become a data intelligence platform that gives organizations more data insight and data governance.

While Alation has grown its capabilities, it doesn't do everything that an organization needs to optimize data for analytics, business intelligence and operational applications. For example, Alation doesn't have data quality metric built into its platform.

That's where the Open Data Quality Initiative comes into play. Sponsored by Alation, the initiative is a technology framework designed to enable more interoperability in a modern data stack. Among the data vendors participating in the initiative are Acceldata, Anomalo, Bigeye, Experian, FirstEigen, Lightup, and Soda.

Notably absent from the list are some of Alation's competitors in the increasingly active data intelligence market. Among Alation's competitors are data intelligence vendor Collibra, and Informatica with its data cloud that integrates data catalog capabilities.

It's encouraging to me when I see vendors addressing the issues that are most impacting the market. Data quality is a significant issue for organizations and it's good to see Alation recognize those needs.
David MenningerAnalyst, Ventana Research

Reviewing data for quality problems is one of the most time-consuming tasks in analytics, according to Ventana Research.

Alation's Open Data Quality Initiative will help reduce the amount of time organizations need to spend on data quality concerns by helping them to connect to data quality and data observability tools, said David Menninger, a Ventana Research analyst.

"It's encouraging to me when I see vendors addressing the issues that are most impacting the market," Menninger said. "Data quality is a significant issue for organizations and it's good to see Alation recognize those needs."

In terms of gaps that Alation needs to address, Menninger noted that his firm's research shows that enforcing data governance policies is one of the most common challenges that organizations face. Alation has been more focused on visibility than enforcement, but the vendor is starting to address that issue, he said.

Integrating data quality with data intelligence

The Open Data Quality Initiative isn't just a go-to-market sales effort, said Satyen Sangani, CEO of Alation. Rather, the initiative aims to provide a set of interoperable APIs and integration tools so different technologies can work together more easily in the data stack.

Organizations today are already able to build data stacks that include data catalog and data quality capabilities, but Sangani said their approaches are often ad hoc and haphazard.

"You can take any data and put it on any framework, but you know, that can end up being a random mess and customers may not necessarily know how to view the data," he said.

The Open Data Quality Initiative integrates a set of user interface capabilities across participating vendors to enable visualization and dashboards.

The framework also includes a direct integration between the Alation data catalog and data quality tools in the framework. As to why Alation doesn't just directly build its own data quality technology, Sangani said it's a matter of focus.

"Our general view is there's a lot of different components to data intelligence world," he said. "We're not trying to do every single thing under the sun."

Governance and data lineage in Alation 2022.2

In September 2021, Alation added a data stewardship workbench to its platform. That feature is expanded in the 2022.2 update.

The stewardship workbench is a visual tool designed to assign data stewards who are accountable for specific data sets within an organization. In Alation 2022.2, the workbench can now handle bulk operations for updating multiple data fields and users at the same time.

The platform update also adds column-level data lineage to help users track where data is coming from. The data lineage can be generated automatically and can also be supplemented with manual lineage entries from users.

There's still a lot left for Alation to build in the coming months and years, Sangani said.

"We think that we've probably built 15% to 20% of what we'd like to go build and there are more user requirements that we want to go build," he said.

Among the gaps that Alation is looking to fill with future updates is still more connectivity to different data sources. Alation also needs to build its cloud service with more multi-tenancy capabilities to support larger organizations and workloads, Sangani said.

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