Alation revamps UX, adds analytics to its data catalog platform

With a search-centric interface, improved analytics and a new cloud-friendly architecture, Alation sees its 2020.3 release as the biggest it's put out in years, or maybe ever.

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Alation's new search-centric, brandable user expeience

Credit: Alation

Data catalog juggernaut Alation is announcing a new release that brings major changes in look, feel and functionality to its platform. Its goal is to cater to business users -- rather than just the data scientists, data engineers, data stewards and analysts it has served until now. By creating what it calls a "consumer-grade" user interface, featuring a search engine-like experience, Alation believes it will increase its user population by a factor of 10. The new release also enables custom branding, adds important analytics functionality and rearchitects the platform for the cloud.

Let your fingers do the searching

Alation's CEO and co-founder, Satyen Sangani, briefed ZDNet last week on the new 2020.3 release. Sangani sees it as Alation's biggest in years, and maybe ever. While Alation already had very good search functionality for its catalog, it was relegated to a sidebar, rather than a single box front and center to the home screen. Sangani sees the new experience as Yelp-like, versus the more yellow pages-like interface that Alation had sported previously. The new interface is shown in the figure at the top of this post.

Beyond the interface, though, the new Alation release adds improved analytics capabilities, providing a BI layer around the popularity of data sources, how data sets are being blended/joined, their level of stewarding and more. Sangani said the analytics are informed not just by Alation's own log data but also by the observed behavioral patterns of users and machine learning technologies in general. While "Data Intelligence" is the catch all for this functionality, we might see Alation's improvements here as bringing some element of augmented analytics to data governance, curation and management.

New architecture for the data culture era

The Alation 2020.3 release brings not just a new look and functionality, but a new architecture as well. The company has containerized its platform, following a dominant trend in the data world and bringing the all-important "cloud native" buzz phrase to the its platform. While Alation has no cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) offering right now, this architectural change would certainly enable it to do so more easily in the future.

As a kicker, Alation 2020.3 also brings enhancements to lineage capabilities; new certified connectors, including ones for Google's Looker and Microsoft's Power BI; and a new sandbox that simplifies upgrades and co-development with Alation itself.

With so much chatter and momentum around digital transformation and establishment of "data culture" within organizations, data catalogs have gone from curational nicety to critical necessity. To make that go well, broader user adoption is key. Alation's user experience revamp is fully consistent with that mandate and should shore up the company's competitive position in the data discovery, governance and management arena.