10 Years Later: Who's the GOAT of Data Catalogs?

By Awais Ahsan

Published on December 15, 2022

Crowd in sport stadium cheering for the GOAT of Data Catalogs

Founded on 12/12/12, Alation celebrated its 10th year in business this week. Among all the internal celebrations, I wanted to take this moment to reflect on our journey so far and ask a thought-provoking question: who is the GOAT of data catalogs?

What Is a GOAT?

If you follow professional sports, you’re likely familiar with GOATs. For those that are unaware, this acronym stands for the “Greatest Of All Time.”

While often a heavily debated topic, most would agree that just like every story needs a hero, every pursuit needs a GOAT. Common debates often end with the consensus agreeing on the following GOATs:

  • Michael Jordan for basketball

  • Muhammad Ali for boxing

  • Serena Williams for tennis

  • Wayne Gretzy for hockey

  • Lionel Messi for soccer

  • Simone Biles for gymnastics

  • And so on

A mural of the GOATs athletes starring, Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, and Serena Williams.

While each of sport existed long before the GOAT players came along, it was these specific players that revolutionized the game and took it to new heights. They broke records, earned scores of accolades, and won over millions of young players and fervent fans who aspire to emulate their success (or at least bask in its glow).

As I reflected on this topic, it occurred to me that software categories should be no different. Like sports, vendors enjoy healthy competition and often find themselves in highly contested markets with several viable opponents, both big and small.

How Do You Determine the GOAT for a Software Category?

But how do you determine the GOAT for a software category? Well, just like in sports, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to leave it to the individual players to decide. These select athletes are determined by what the “market” is saying – this includes fans, analysts, and the press. So not unlike sports, we would then want to look to the market signals – customer reviews, analyst accolades, partner awards, and more – in order to crown a category king.

As Alation celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, I thought it would be as good a time as any to recap what the market has said about us over the past decade.

Here’s a timeline view of what the market has said about Alation since our founding:

Timeline: 10 Years of Alation


  • December 2012: Alation forms and goes to work creating the first enterprise data catalog. Later, in its inaugural report on data catalogs, Forrester Research recognizes that “Alation started the MLDC trend.”


  • January 2015: Alation acquires its first customer

  • March 2015: Alation emerges from stealth mode to launch the first official data catalog to empower people in enterprises to easily find, understand, govern and use data for informed decision making that supports the business.


  • April 2016: Tesco Group becomes first customer outside North America

  • May 2016: Alation named a Gartner Cool Vendor in their Data Integration and Data Quality, 2016 report







Is Alation the GOAT of Data Catalogs?

Is Alation the GOAT of data catalogs? Of data governance? Of the data intelligence market as a whole? All we can do is present the facts, and like any other GOAT discussion, it’s ultimately the market that will decide.

But it’s worth pointing out that Alation created the data catalog product category years before this market took off. Today, we lead the market’s evolution as we further develop the data catalog into a data intelligence platform: one place to find, understand, govern, use, and collaborate around data with total confidence and trust. And in our 10 years of collecting insights and obsessing over delivering value to customers, we’ve realized that for a data intelligence platform to be successful it must fulfill two criteria. It must 1) connect to everything and 2) be engaged and adopted by everyone.

What do we mean by everything? That’s your full suite of BI tools, databases and data sources, cloud data warehouses, connectors, and other beloved tools in the modern data stack. To empower our partners to develop on the Alation platform, we’ve launched programs like the Open Data Quality Initiative, which welcomes data quality partners to innovate on our Open Connector Framework, and guides them on how to best build customized solutions to address our joint customers’ diverse needs.

What do we mean by everyone? We mean the usual suspects, of course: data scientists & engineers, IT leaders, analysts, CIOs, and CDOs… But we also mean the people who have been excluded from critical access to data for too long: business users within all parts of the enterprise, from finance and marketing to operations and HR. As more organizations seek to use data as a strategic asset, more people will need to be included to realize the promise of a data culture.

Today, more than 25% of the Fortune 100 use Alation to do just that. Tomorrow, we seek to expand our vision and values to.

Choices abound. There are legacy players, new entrants, and scrappy startups. But when it comes time for your business to pick a data catalog, ask yourself this: do I want to partner with a “good enough” catalog? Or do I go with the GOAT?

Is Alation really the data catalog GOAT? Try a demo and decide for yourself.

  • What Is a GOAT?
  • How Do You Determine the GOAT for a Software Category?
  • Timeline: 10 Years of Alation
  • Is Alation the GOAT of Data Catalogs?
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