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Alation broadens ecosystem with spate of new integrations

The data catalog specialist is adding integrations with Amazon DynamoDB, MongoDB and Apache Kafka -- among others -- to broaden the connectivity of its data ecosystem.

Alation on Wednesday unveiled a series of new integrations designed to broaden the connectivity of the vendor's Data Intelligence Platform.

In October, Alation introduced integrations with analytics vendors ThoughtSpot and Sigma Computing as well as data observability specialist Monte Carlo. Earlier in 2023, Alation formed partnerships with data lakehouse pioneer Databricks and data transformation vendor DBT Labs.

Now, Alation is launching new integrations with Amazon DynamoDB, Apache Kafka, Elasticsearch, Fivetran, MongoDB, and Cloud Software Group's Tibco Data Virtualization and Spotfire. In addition, Alation revealed that it is deepening preexisting integrations with Amazon S3, Google BigQuery and ServiceNow.

Alation first launched its partner program, which it calls the Open Connector Framework, in January 2023. Since then, the vendor's focus on developing an ecosystem beyond its data catalog has been considerable, according to Kevin Petrie, an analyst at Eckerson Group.

Ecosystem support, in fact, is a top criterion for Eckerson Group when appraising data management and analytics platforms, Petrie noted.

Every data environment has an ecosystem of interdependent data sources, targets, platforms and tools. These elements must work together to ensure data portability and tool interoperability. Otherwise, you're just creating more silos.
Kevin PetrieAnalyst, Eckerson Group

"Every data environment has an ecosystem of interdependent data sources, targets, platforms and tools," he said. "These elements must work together to ensure data portability and tool interoperability. Otherwise, you're just creating more silos."

Based in Redwood City, Calif., Alation is a data catalog specialist similar to Atlan and Collibra. The vendor's Data Intelligence Platform enables customers to connect data from disparate sources, as well as organize data products such as models, dashboards and data sets so that they can be discovered and used to inform decisions.

In addition, Alation's platform provides metadata management capabilities that enable users to see the lineage and quality of their data.

Beyond expanding connectivity through integrations, Alation recently launched a new benchmark tool that enables customers to measure their data maturity and unveiled the public preview of Allie AI, a suite of generative AI capabilities.

New integrations

Alation's aim as it adds integrations is to help customers develop a modern data stack, according to Diby Malakar, the vendor's vice president of product management.

While Alation's data catalog serves as a connective layer that enables organizations to avoid data isolation and to find and operationalize data products, it is only part of the data stack. Other tools ingest and integrate data, observe data while it's in the pipeline to ensure data quality, store data when it's at rest, and power the analysis that leads to insights and decisions.

Alation's integrations with ThoughtSpot and Sigma Computing developed in October address analysis, as do previously existing integrations with BI platforms such as Tableau and Looker, letting Alation customers connect to the analytics layer of their choice.

The integration with Databricks, meanwhile, addresses data storage, and the integration with Monte Carlo enables users to connect to a data observability platform.

Many of the newest integrations add connectivity between Alation and data sources, enabling users to move data from source and storage environments to the analysis layer.

Amazon DynamoDB and MongoDB are databases, while Apache Kafka is a streaming data platform. Tibco Data Virtualization is a data fabric platform that enables customers to see data sources in a single location.

Spotfire is a BI platform similar to ThoughtSpot and Sigma Computing. Elasticsearch is a search and analytics engine that stores data and is designed to conduct fast data queries and other searches.

Taken together, the new integrations address numerous potential needs for Alation customers, according to Petrie.

"This announcement does move the needle for Alation customers because it gives them new abilities to track real-time data, virtualized data and data from popular databases," he said.

Meanwhile, continuing to broaden the connectivity of the Data Intelligence Platform is important, Petrie continued.

Without connecting to a wide variety of sources, data catalogs can lead to more data isolation than less, he said. Therefore, connectors and integrations that enable users to view metadata across different systems are critical.

"The irony of data catalogs is that without broad ecosystem support and proper implementation, they will create more data silos," Petrie said. "To the degree possible, you really want an enterprise-wide view of your metadata. By extending its connectors in this fashion, Alation helps allay the risk of silos in a comprehensive way."

As Alation adds new integrations to broaden its connectivity, the integrations it prioritizes for development are driven by customer demand, according to Malakar. Alation now has an ideation portal where customers can submit ideas for new integrations and other users can then vote for which ones they prefer.

"We, as product managers, look at the top ideas around the ecosystem and prioritize those," Malakar said. "It's firmly focused on customer demand and what we hear from customers."

Future plans

Moving forward, one of Alation's goals is to be a trusted platform for AI, including generative AI, according to Malakar.

Data catalogs such as Alation can help enterprises make sure they're training AI models with data relevant to the project on which they're working. Data catalogs also are a means of ensuring data quality, without which AI models and applications are of little value.

Generative AI models, in particular, require quality data, given their propensity to deliver incorrect and sometimes misleading outputs.

In addition, Alation plans to continue adding integrations to its Open Connector Framework to expand the Data Intelligence Platform environment, according to Malakar.

Petrie, meanwhile, noted that although Alation already deploys generative AI to support data management by automatically cataloging and documenting data, the vendor still has room to add more generative AI capabilities.

In particular, Alation could add more support for unstructured data types such as text and audio files that are increasingly being operationalized to train domain-specific language models that understand an enterprise's business.

"I'll be interested to see how they do more to manage data in support of GenAI," Petrie said. "Companies need to document all the text files, images [and other unstructured data types] that feed GenAI language models, and catalogs such as Alation have a big role to play in making that happen."

Eric Avidon is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial and a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He covers analytics and data management.

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