Trust And Verify: Alation Adds Data Governance Capabilities To Its Big Data System

Big data software developer Alation has added a new set of data governance capabilities to its Alation Data Catalog system that the company says provides real-time data governance "guardrails" to workflows.

The new TrustCheck functionality comes as businesses and organizations are taking steps to ensure managers and workers comply with a growing number of data governance and privacy laws, such as the European Union's recently enacted General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

"There's this foundation of growing awareness out and about in the market," said Stephanie McReynolds, Alation marketing vice president, referring to the growing demand for data governance capabilities in big data software.

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In an interview with CRN, McReynolds specifically cited GDPR and this year's scandal over the use of Facebook user information by a political consulting firm as raising data governance awareness. "We've been closely tracking the evolution of requirements in this space."

Alation's collaborative data catalog makes it easier for analysts, data scientists and information stewards such as chief data officers to search, identify and query data, ultimately making an organization's data more accessible to a wider audience of users.

But increased access, especially with the trend toward "self-service data analysis" that makes more data available to everyday users with less IT management involvement, can be a double-edged sword if it increases the chances for data misuse.

"Before self-service analytics, data governance teams focused on documentation and control, relying on a few select experts who spent time arduously creating rules and policies for data use, Alation said in a statement. "Resolving compliance issues often meant policing user behavior after a breach or critical mistake already occurred. Broad-based adoption of self-service analytics and an exponential growth in data creation has changed this environment dramatically."

Hence the addition of TrustCheck, capabilities that McReynolds said allow businesses to use data catalogs as part of their data governance initiatives, what the company is calling "agile data stewardship."

TrustCheck is an embedded set of features in the machine learning technology in the Alation Data Catalog. Data stewards use the functionality to attach guidelines and rules to data assets, specifying whether data can be trusted or requires additional context, and deprecate data that contain data inaccuracies or whose use could violate data governance policies.

TrustCheck provides users with recommendations and alerts about data usage constraints and advises them on data governance best practices.

The feedback is made available through Alation Compose, the SQL query writing tool used to search and access data in the Alation Catalog. The visual cues are displayed in the Compose interface, and in dashboards of third-party software such as Salesforce's Einstein Analytics and Tableau's business analytics tools.

"This allows us to be more pro-active with our recommendations," explained Jason Ma, Alation product marketing vice president, in an interview with CRN.

Alation also offers an API with documentation that allows developers to link TrustCheck with other applications.

Data governance and compliance are becoming a significant part of customer engagements for solution providers, big data consultants and systems integrators, McReynolds said. The new TrustCheck capabilities offer Alation solution and service provider partners with an opportunity to expand their data governance and compliance service portfolios, she said.