Blog Post

Alation: Finding Truth in Data

Alation: Finding Truth in Data
Investment / January 17, 2019
Written by , Anders Ranum

Despite promises to the contrary, businesses today must spend a great deal of time and effort collecting data. Even in 2019, many organizations still have a hard time with the basics of locating relevant business data and the context necessary to make it accessible to business-intelligence users. This disconnect puts BI investments at risk and degrades the experienced value of business intelligence for millions of companies.

database concept. vintage cabinet. library card or file catalog.

This data issue is not going to get easier. According to Forrester’s Machine Learning Data Catalog, Q2 2018 Wave report, between 36 and 38 percent of global data and analytics decision-makers reported that their data totaled 1,000 TB or more in 2017. In 2016, that number was only 10 to 14 percent of decision makers. A slowdown in data growth isn’t anywhere in sight. With the growth in data volume, there has been an equally dizzying growth in data interpretation and analysis tools available to businesses to extract value from the data they are sitting on.

At Sapphire, we are firm believers that the greatest leverage for understanding data comes from a single, but very real, source of reference that serves as the basis for creating a business culture defined by trust in data.

Today, we are excited to announce our lead in the $50 million Series C investment in Alation, a company we believe is helping companies build that single source of reference for data. Alation was the first to bring a data catalog to market with an approach based on the founders’ deep technical understanding, and keen desire to unlock the value of billions of dollars invested in self-service analytics initiatives.

Sapphire has a long history of investing in the business intelligence market and have been on the quest to support enterprises with the best tools in the data and business intelligence market. Alation has become a leader in the data catalog space, scaling to help people find, understand and use the underlying data of their business.

So, why is a data catalog like Alation’s important in this world of ever increasing data investments?

The Role of the Data Catalog

If the underlying challenge businesses face is having too many data sources across too many locations, generating conflicting data, they need a way to rationalize that data into a singular source of reference.

This is where a data catalog comes in — a place to centralize data knowledge in a single location, allowing users to self-serve, while providing accuracy and consistency across data silos.

The Alation Data Catalog was a solution that helped start this machine-learning data catalog trend. Alation created a premier data cataloging solution that has revolutionized the old approach of metadata management. Today’s data catalogs create that critical single source of reference for distributed data knowledge by doing something innovative:

  • indexing the metadata in enterprise databases like Teradata and RedShift,
  • parsing the queries for metadata created in business intelligence tools like Tableau, and
  • creating new metadata from observing processing behaviors in analyst work done on file systems like Cloudera.

Similar to how Google crawls the public Internet, the Alation Data Catalog automatically sifts through, parses and indexes all data and metadata. To make the user experience seamless, Alation also applies machine learning to look for patterns and continually make recommendations to improve the human understanding of the data it parses. This simplifies human data discovery by simplifying search processes, improves analyst productivity through data recommendations and provides a foundation for driving improvements for many other use cases and user profiles.

We met Satyen Sangani in 2013, well before Alation raised its Series A. Immediately, we were impressed by his passion and the vision for defining a new software solution. Since then, he and his team have not only built a scalable technical solution, but helped create the category of data catalog by helping companies understand the need for this important data layer. We are thrilled to partner with Alation to bring Sapphire’s experience and resources to their journey to become a company of consequence by returning corporate data to a single and irrefutable source of truth.


Disclaimer: Nothing presented within this article is intended to constitute investment advice, and under no circumstances should any information provided herein be used or considered as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any investment fund managed by Sapphire Ventures. Information provided reflects Sapphire Ventures’ views as of a particular time. Such views are subject to change at any point and Sapphire Ventures shall not be obligated to provide notice of any change. While Sapphire Ventures has used reasonable efforts to obtain information from reliable sources, we make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of third-party information presented herein. No guarantee of investment performance is being provided and no inference to the contrary should be made. Past performance is not indicative of future results.