March 31, 2015 | Portfolio

Stealth no more: revealing Alation

Written by

Greg Sands

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Three weeks ago, I wrote about Alation’s funding. This week is even more exciting since we actually get to talk about Alation’s product and its customers.

Alation accelerates analysis by helping people quickly find, understand, use, and govern data. It centralizes the knowledge of an organization’s data, without forcing the organization to consolidate the data itself.

Alation’s platform approach delivers what data-driven organizations have been trying to achieve for decades — collaborative analytics, data search and discovery, effective data governance, and data warehouse optimization. Many approaches have been tried to solve this 25 year- old problem — and it has only gotten worse as sensors and clickstream data have proliferated and the modern Big Data stack has emerged. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications have enabled business teams to go around IT in rolling out new capabilities quickly, but they make the challenge of finding, using and governing enterprise data that much harder. Data Sprawl, the inability of analysts to find the right data and understand what it means, is a central problem for all data driven organizations.

Organizations and vendors have tried to solve this problem many times. Centralizing all the data quickly becomes prohibitively expensive and limits the agility of technology solutions and the IT team in solving business problems. Asking users to document the data (create meta data) and keep it up to date to make assets searchable is too burdensome. Alation uniquely combines the power of machine learning with human insight, automatically capturing what the data describes, where the data comes from, who’s using it and how’s it’s used.

The objective all along has been to make data more accessible to both analysts and programmers, so that they can find and understand the right data and use this data to get insight for better business decisions. Instead of locking data assets behind a glass wall, Alation fosters faster collaboration between analysts, stewards, business users, and IT by enabling them to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and quickly find answers with an intuitive set of interfaces, depending on role.

Alation is an elegant solution that delivers tools that look like search for enterprise data and a computer-generated wiki (e.g. Wikipedia) for enterprise data. Delivering on that promise is incredibly hard and requires doing a lot of critical foundational work first. Most importantly, it requires integrating directly with key data sources — that is, Alation inserts itself into the query stream for major data warehouses and applications to extract data (and meta-data) and auto-generate a wiki. Slapping a UI layer on top of existing data assets and meta-data simply won’t solve the problem.

One of the things this announcement helps me realize is the pride that I take when our portfolio companies deliver extraordinary customer value. To me, the best part of today’s announcement is that several happy Alation customers have stepped forward to share how they are using and getting value from Alation. That true north is the best metric (even better than sales) about whether the company is focused on the right things. The use cases of eBay, MarketShare and Square are exciting proof points about the capabilities that Alation is enabling. Onward!

For more information, read the press release here.

About Alation
Alation’s enterprise data accessibility platform empowers employees inside of data-driven organizations to find, understand, use, and govern data for better, faster business decisions. Alation combines the power of machine learning with human insight to automatically capture information about what the data describes, where the data comes from, who’s using it and how it’s used. Alation is based in sunny Redwood City and funded by Andreessen Horowitz, Bloomberg Beta, Costanoa Venture Capital, Data Collective and General Catalyst Partners. Customers include eBay, MarketShare, and some of the world’s largest finance and retail firms. For more information, visit


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