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Alation platform update targets building a data culture

New business lineage and data discovery capabilities aimed at helping customers develop an enterprise-wide data culture are included in the data catalog specialist's latest update.

Alation on Monday unveiled the next version of its Data Intelligence Platform, highlighted by new data lineage features and aimed at helping enterprises strengthen their data culture.

The new version of the Data Intelligence Platform is scheduled for general availability during the second quarter of 2024 and focuses on four key pillars, according to Alation. The pillars include data search and discovery featuring both traditional AI and generative AI, governance including the new data lineage capabilities, literacy and leadership.

Together, the pillars enable organizations to improve their data culture so they can more fully realize value from self-service analytics and AI initiatives.

That culture, meanwhile, is a critical aspect of deriving value from data, according to Matt Aslett, an analyst at ISG's Ventana Research. Without an enterprise-wide data culture, decision-making suffers.

"There are countless data and analytics products and services available that promise to accelerate and improve data processing and analysis," Aslett said. "However, adopting the best products in the world will not help if an organization does not also take steps to improve and refine its culture and business processes."

In addition, Alation is focused on the right concepts in its attempt to help customers improve their data culture, Aslett continued.

"While Alation's four pillars of data maturity clearly align to the capabilities of its Data Intelligence Platform, they are also broadly similar to what Ventana Research believes are the key aspects of creating a data-driven agenda," he said.

Based in Redwood City, Calif., Alation is a data catalog vendor whose peers include Atlan and Collibra. Its Data Intelligence Platform enables enterprises to connect data from various sources, govern data so it can be used safely and securely, and organize data products such as models and dashboards so they can be discovered and used to inform decisions.

Recently, Alation unveiled a series of integrations with vendors and tools such as Apache Kafka, MongoDB and Tibco Data Virtualization aimed at expanding the breadth of Alation's data ecosystem.

The importance of data lineage.
Data lineage download.

Platform update

Good data is imperative to analytics and AI success. If the data that feeds applications and models is wrong, the applications and models will be wrong as well, leading to a lack of trust in an organization's data.

Therefore, not only is data quality a critical component of accurate analysis, but so is the trust in data that helps develop an enterprise-wide data culture too.

As a result, data lineage, which enables users to visualize the lifecycle of data across systems and business layers within their organization, is a significant aspect of Alation's latest Data Intelligence Platform update.

Data lineage, which the vendor terms business lineage, ensures data quality. By tracking data from its current state back through previous use and to its original source, users can see whether it maintains its quality or somehow was incorrectly altered and can no longer be trusted.

To foster the data trust that's needed to develop an enterprise-wide data culture, Alation's new business lineage capabilities include the following:

  • Added data governance surrounding protected data such as personally identifiable information and other sensitive data so that audit times can be reduced through automation and the data search and discovery process can be more efficient.
  • Increased transparency through data maps so users can more easily view and understand data's journey as well as trace KPIs and other metrics back to their data sources.
  • Streamlined error identification and correction processes aimed at reducing development and maintenance costs.

Beyond business lineage, new search and discovery capabilities are key to helping organizations build a data culture, according to Aslett.

Alation's new data search and discovery capabilities are powered by Allie AI, the vendor's AI-infused intelligent search engine.

With intelligent curation capabilities and automated documentation capabilities in Allie AI, which Alation unveiled in preview in October 2023, users will be able to search and discover data based on semantic search meaning and keywords.

Meanwhile, data lineage and data discovery work in tandem, helping to foster self-service analytics by providing business users with access to trusted data.

"When providing self-service access to data, enterprises need to ensure that business users and data analysts can find the data they need, understand what it means, and trust that it is valid, current and reliable for business decision-making," Aslett said.

As a result, three-quarters of enterprises will make data intelligence a priority over the next three years, he continued.

"The latest enhancements to Alation's Data Intelligence Platform, such as AI-enhanced data discovery and curation and improvements to data governance and data lineage, are designed to provide contextual understanding of the data and ensure that users can trust the data they have access to," Aslett said.

Beyond data lineage and search and discovery, Alation's Data Intelligence Platform update targets data literacy and data leadership to build a data culture.

There are countless data and analytics products and services available that promise to accelerate and improve data processing and analysis. However, adopting the best products in the world will not help if an organization does not also take steps to improve and refine its culture and business processes.
Matt AslettAnalyst, ISG's Ventana Research

The vendor's new data literacy capabilities include a modernized interface that can be customized to help users understand data and a contextual metadata feature that provides descriptions and insights related to the usage of data and data products.

The update addresses leadership with Alation Analytics, a suite that includes visualization capabilities that display an enterprise's entire data usage so that leaders can quantify which data initiatives make the most impact. In addition, Alation Analytics features a data maturity assessment tool so leaders can understand how their organization's data operations compare with those of similar organizations.

The impetus for focusing on data culture, meanwhile, came from a combination of customer feedback and Alation's observations on the state of data management and analytics, according to Diby Malakar, the vendor's vice president of product management.

In particular, increasing reliance on cloud-based capabilities and an emphasis on AI development are proving to be difficult for many organizations, he noted.

"The journey to successfully adopt, scale these technologies and achieve tangible returns on investment is fraught with challenges," Malakar said. "It demands that employees can not only access but also comprehend, trust and utilize their data effectively. Collaboration and … data literacy across the organization are essential steps to navigate this intricate data terrain successfully."

Next steps

As Alation evolves, one area of focus is developing a broader network of partners, according to Malakar.

In addition to unveiling new partnerships last month, the vendor expanded partnerships with DBT Labs and Databricks in April 2023 and added a trio of additional partnerships in October 2023. Moving forward, Alation expects to add partnerships and integrations with additional vendors.

Beyond its partnership network, AI is a focal point of Alation's roadmap, Malakar said. In particular, capabilities that enable customers to find relevant data more quickly and efficiently curate large volumes of data are in the works.

Aslett, meanwhile, said Alation would be wise to focus on enabling analytics operations processes in support of its technological focus on data intelligence.

Toward that end, the vendor has developed Alation Analytics, which includes a set of benchmarking tools. However, the vendor could do more to provide insights into processes such as automated responses to data pipeline requirements, according to Aslett.

"Data intelligence has the potential to provide a holistic view of data production and consumption," he said. "To do so, it should also encompass AnalyticOps processes and practices to support … the consumption of data. Analytics Cloud has the potential to be enhanced with functionality to automate analytics operations."

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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