Olivier Le Moal - stock.adobe.co
Data intelligence vendor Alation on Monday added new capabilities to its platform that enable organizations to better manage and integrate enterprise data in spreadsheets.
The well-funded vendor raised $123 million in a series E round of funding on Nov. 2 and continues to build out its data intelligence technology, which includes data catalog as well as data governance capabilities.
Alation competes with data catalog and data intelligence vendors including Collibra, Atlan, Ataccama, Data.world and Quest's Erwin Data Catalog.
With Alation Connected Sheets, enterprises can pull in trusted data sets that are in the Alation data catalog so that they can be used in cloud-based spreadsheet applications, including Google Sheets and Excel in the Microsoft 365 cloud service.
The new Alation service also can work the other way, by cataloging and applying data governance to data in spreadsheets in the Alation data intelligence platform.
The need to provide data governance for spreadsheets is apparent, said Ventana Research analyst David Menninger.
David MenningerAnalyst, Ventana Research
"Spreadsheets continue to be one of the most popular analytical tools organizations use," Menninger said. "In our research, 80% of organizations indicated they are using spreadsheets."
It is unlikely that business intelligence and analytics tools will ever completely replace spreadsheets, he added.
But despite the fact that organizations are using spreadsheets, organizations still have data governance concerns about them. That's where Alation's Connected Sheets can fit in, enabling organizations to address those concerns by combining data catalog and data governance capabilities with spreadsheets.
"Organizations can use Alation to find the right data and connect the use of that data to governed sources rather than rogue spreadsheets," Menninger said.
Spreadsheet data intelligence comes to Alation by acquisition
The basis for Alation Connected Sheets is from technology the vendor gained with the March 2022 acquisition of privately held vendor Kloud.io.
Kloud.io had developed technology that enabled organizations to access SaaS-based data sources, including Salesforce and NetSuite.
Raj Gossain, chief product officer at Alation, said the vendor has been working since March on integrating the Kloud.io technology into the Alation platform.
The goal of Alation Connected Sheets is to bring trusted data that is governed and up to date directly to business users in spreadsheets. Previously, Alation users could have brought data into spreadsheets -- though it wasn't governed or integrated -- by downloading data that existed in the data catalog as a comma-separated values flat file, Gossain said.
With the new service, data from the Alation data intelligence platform can now be discoverable from inside of a spreadsheet, and the data will still be subject to the data governance controls in the Alation platform. Spreadsheet users also get visibility into data lineage, which was cumbersome before the new service.
While Alation overall is aiming to make it easier for organizations to get visibility into data wherever it resides, one area the vendor is still working on is enabling users to integrate with collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams.
How Alation Connected Sheets works
The Alation platform also uses the extensibility option that Google Sheets and Microsoft 365 provide. Both of those services support extensions that can bring third-party apps into the context of the spreadsheet itself.
The process works by enabling users of Google Sheets and Excel to open a sidebar where they authenticate to Alation. After authentication, users can browse through all the data sources the enterprise has made available to them.
The data sources can be anything in the data catalog, including databases and data warehouses such as Snowflake and Amazon Redshift. The user, for example, can search for customer revenue information and then pull that data directly into the spreadsheet.
The data connection is not a one-time download. What happens is the spreadsheet maintains a connection to the data catalog, which is linked to the original data source. The data can then be synchronized to ensure it is always up to date.
Spreadsheets now also become part of the Alation data catalog, enabling organizations to have better visibility and governance for data wherever it is used.
"The goal of the offering is to be bidirectional, so business users can access the power of the Alation data catalog and the trusted data sources," Gossain said.