Using Data

Feng Niu
Feng Niu
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Organizations collect and store data all the time; at the end of the day, the goal is for software and people to use the data in technical and business decisions. The mission of Alation is to make enterprise data more accessible and usable. Through our extensive experience of building the product and talking with customers, we’ve learned a few characteristics of our approach that make Alation a compelling platform for data accessibility and usability:

Bring users’ knowledge closer to each other

If big data is a big elephant, individual users could be like blind men: everyone has their own mental models of what data there is and what are the best ways to use them; each model is likely somewhat stale, incomplete, and inconsistent with each other. Although people do write and talk, the lack of a persistent and consistent medium for such technical knowledge often entails high-cost, high-latency, low-efficiency, and low-fidelity communications. In contrast, Alation centralizes an organization’s knowledge about data to address the above problems. In addition, we make knowledge sharing effortless by analyzing usage data and performing NLP over existing data documentation.

Bring knowledge and data closer to usage

If you’ve ever run SQL queries, how often did you have to consult the schema, sample data, existing query snippets, and data dictionaries as you write the query? I bet the answer is “almost always.” While we could derive valuable knowledge from usage data, it is equally critical to have such knowledge readily available right when data is being used. However, in a reasonably complex data environment, it is practically impossible for the user to bear such knowledge in her brain. One thing Alation strives to be is a brain extension for data users — we bring just-in-time knowledge and context when you need them. As an embodiment of this principle, Alation Compose is an app for SQL users with intelligent features such as Smart Suggest, Smart Preview, and Prescient Warnings.

Bring governance closer to data and usage

Two prominent topics in enterprise data management are “data governance” and “self-service analytics.” On the surface, the two seem to be at odds, with the former regulating data creation and consumption, and the latter encouraging it. We have also learned from our customers that many data governance programs would fail because of their disconnect from data users, whereas many self-service analytics tools would eventually deteriorate in their trustworthiness due to the “blind men” problem. At Alation, we tackle both problems at once by providing a platform that brings together yin and yang pairs: business logics and data sources, data governors / stewards and data users, DO NOTs and DOs, etc. The end result is effective data governance with trustworthy analytics.

If you find our approach interesting, you may want to get a demo, or join us!

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