The Alation Connector for Sigma: Delivering Trusted Data at Scale

By Todd Beauchene

Published on October 24, 2023

Abstract orange light boxes emerging from a dark black background

We are excited to announce the debut of new connectors, including two with Sigma Computing and Monte Carlo. These custom-built connectors empower customers with a single view of data across sources, supporting better comprehension of data, as well as cross-team collaboration, innovation, and data governance to enhance trust. 

In this blog, I’ll reveal why and how we partnered with Hakkoda to build the Sigma connector. I’ll clarify the role of Alation’s Open Connector Framework in that journey – and share how joint users stand to benefit. 

The need for depth and breadth in a connected data ecosystem

The data ecosystem has grown extensively over the past ten years, fueled by the explosion of available data and the shift to cloud and SaaS architecture. One side effect of this growth is the need for IT leadership to govern the tools and data within their organizations. Perhaps even more critical is the need for decision-makers to efficiently find the answers they need to make informed decisions. Alation helps both IT and business leaders by consolidating trusted data on a single, user-friendly platform, making it easy for organizations to manage the wide array of data and tools and create a data culture.

This ever-expanding data ecosystem presents unique challenges for organizations of all sizes. In response, Alation developed the Open Connector Framework to allow connectors to be built independently from the core catalog. With this framework in place, we have been able to expand connector development beyond our engineering team and incorporate the skills of our partners. We have identified a number of highly-skilled partners with existing expertise around a wide variety of data solutions.

The case for comprehensive data intelligence

One of the biggest challenges that organizations face today is enabling business users to find the data assets that are most relevant to whatever subject they are looking to gain more insight into. Alation’s Data Intelligence Platform enables a user to find the data they are looking for, understand and trust that data, and ultimately make better decisions.

While cataloging the data in the data warehouse is valuable, being able to extend the catalog to include the pre-built analyses available within the Sigma Computing platform extends the value significantly. Business users who may not understand the tables and columns of the data warehouse or data lake, even with the benefit of a catalog, will benefit from the ability to search the more business-friendly Sigma workbooks for the data they need.

“Where did this data come from?” With this connector, users will be able to see data lineage and better understand the source of the data powering the workbooks within Sigma. This lineage combines with Alation’s in-database lineage functionality to provide a business user a holistic understanding of data origin in order to increase trust in the outputs within Sigma.

As more and more sources are incorporated into Alation, users are empowered to see all of the metadata from these sources in a single, searchable view of the entire system.

Sigma provides a powerful way to gain insight from cloud data

The rise of cloud data platforms in the mid-2010s created a wave of change. Analysts and business users needed a new generation of tools to interact with these flexible and scalable platforms.  I was part of the early go-to-market team at Snowflake and saw this firsthand. Sigma was one of the exciting new technologies developed during that time. From the beginning, it delivered data in Snowflake tables to business users in a familiar, spreadsheet-like user interface. This approach simplified the process of interacting with the data warehouse and brought the flexibility offered by Snowflake to a wider audience. Sigma has since added support for other leading cloud data platforms, including Databricks and Google Big Query.

The combination of Alation and Sigma with one or more of these leading cloud data platforms offers a powerful solution to bring the value of data into the hands of business users. With Alation, users can easily search and discover all Sigma content. That search is augmented by auto-generated labels and trust flags to help users find exactly what they are looking for. Once they have identified the workbooks that contain the data they need, they can quickly move into Sigma to view the data and interact with the data without having to write SQL.

Hakkoda brings expertise on the modern data stack

Expertise in data platforms and the related technologies is becoming increasingly valuable for organizations seeking to create a data culture. Hakkoda has assembled industry-leading talent across the data stack to provide innovative solutions for their customers. This connector is borne of that expertise, as Alation worked closely with Hakkoda and Sigma to develop it. In this way, it represents a new path by which they are able to help their customers develop and maintain a data culture.

Hakkoda has been working with both Alation and Sigma to provide their customers with innovative and powerful data solutions. The knowledge that they have gathered while working with these technologies allowed them to design a bespoke connector that extracts the metadata from Sigma to be cataloged within Alation. That knowledge will also enable Hakkoda to provide world-class support to customers who purchase the connector.

Alation and Sigma: Creating a data culture

As organizations build out their data architectures, it is critical to understand the strengths of each of the technologies involved. Alation and Simga both share a focus on usability for the business. Whereas Alation offers the leading data intelligence platform, Sigma is a leading cloud analytics solution, enabling users across the enterprise to collaborate on billions of rows of trusted data assets without the complexity required by traditional business intelligence platforms. 

“True democratization of data extends beyond mere access – it’s about humanizing the data and analytics process, providing ease and context for all users,” said Justin Thomas, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Sigma Computing. “Our integration with Alation transforms the data journey for users, streamlining access to Sigma Workbooks and shattering data silos. This amplifies the user experience and fosters an environment where swift, informed decisions become the norm. Together, we simplify finding and understanding trusted data to ensure analysts no longer grapple with delays or fragmented insights.” 

The combination of the two, on the foundation of a cloud data platform, offer a way to enable self-service data discovery and analysis. Self-service analytics is a core tenet of a data culture, as it removes roadblocks that prevent decision makers from using the right data to make decisions.

To learn more about Alation connectors, explore the Alation Open Connector Framework.

  • The need for depth and breadth in a connected data ecosystem
  • The case for comprehensive data intelligence
  • Sigma provides a powerful way to gain insight from cloud data
  • Hakkoda brings expertise on the modern data stack
  • Alation and Sigma: Creating a data culture
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