Newcomer Alation Connects Dots on All Data Inside Enterprise

The startup crawls every bit of data and catalogs every object, logical or physical, within an IT system and makes specific items easy to find.

Data accessibility provider Alation came out of stealth March 31 with a software platform that ostensibly makes it easier and faster for line-of-business employees in an enterprise to use big data to make effective business decisions.

Two-year-old Alation, which means "to have wings," crawls every bit of data and catalogs every object, logical or physical, within an IT system and makes specific items easy to find.

"With data at the center of an organization, different people touch different parts of the data, and therefore have different perspectives, and all have different knowledge of the data that other people ideally should be able to use," CEO Satyen Sangani told eWEEK. "Business people know how to use it, analysts know the specifics of the data elements and how to answer questions about it, IT people—the data custodians—have a strong understanding of the database systems, but maybe not the data inside those systems.

"Data curators, or stewards, are responsible for documenting the data, but they don't necessarily know how it will be used. This all becomes tribal knowledge, where people want to know more about it, but that it's hard to learn about it."

Therein is where Alation comes to play. It is designed to simplify data access and accelerate time-to-insight for all players in an organization by combining the power of machine learning with human insight, Sangani said.

Alation centralizes an organization's knowledge of data, automatically capturing information on what the data describes, where the data comes from, who's using it and how it's used. This enables fast search and collaboration between analysts, stewards, data consumers and IT by enabling them to share knowledge, exchange ideas and quickly find the answers they need.

Data-driven companies often suffer from data complexity and data sprawl in both analytical and online transaction processing (OLTP) systems, Sangani said. Previous approaches to consolidating such vast amounts of data have fallen short. Despite massive investments in data management platforms such as Hadoop, business intelligence and analytics tools, enterprises and government still need to hire teams of consultants, data scientists and business analysts to get timely insights about the business.

"Alation tells the fastest way to get the right answer, whether it's finding the right database, learning about best practice methods, appropriately modifying a query or asking an expert," Sangani said. "Our founding team has the right combination of deep enterprise, design, engineering and search expertise to address the problem of making data accessible. It's a difficult technological challenge, but even more amazing human challenge. We're thrilled that our customers are now able to talk about what we've achieved together."

Common use cases include:

--Collaborative analytics: Improves analyst productivity, delivers faster time-to-insight and lowers the cost of hiring and retaining analysts.
--Search and discovery: Unified search means analysts, data scientists, stewards and data consumers can find the information they need faster.
--Data optimization: Helps organizations realize infrastructure cost savings and a more efficient data infrastructure.
--Data governance: Empowers data governance initiatives resulting in lower costs of compliance, lower operational risk, increased productivity for stewards and cost savings by automating the key areas of the governance process.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Alation is used by some large data-driven organizations, with tens of thousands of employees, which manage petabytes of data and thousands of databases. Customers include eBay, MarketShare, Inflection and Invoice2Go, among others.

Alation's data accessibility platform is available now. Go here for more information.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...