Alation Marketplaces: The Power of Enterprise and External Data – Combined!
By Aaron Kalb
Published on February 22, 2023
Today, we’re thrilled to debut Alation Marketplaces. This new product empowers anyone hunting for data to find trusted, 3rd-party data sets they may use to augment enterprise data – and uncover exciting new insights.
From the beginning, Alation’s vision has been to help people find the dataset they need, wherever it might be. Today, nearly 500 of our customers use the data catalog to find trusted data, but, until now, that search had been subject to one key caveat: historically, we only catalogued the datasets our customers already had. Don’t get us wrong: it’s awesome to be able to type in a single search term and find a relevant Snowflake table, Tableau dashboard, Databricks schema, and AWS S3 bucket from far-flung corners of your company. But sometimes the data you need exists outside the firewalls of your organization’s data environment.
Thankfully, those “external datasets” (sometimes called “3rd-party data,” or “alternative data” in the financial services sector) are increasingly being made available through repositories like the Snowflake Data Marketplace or the AWS Data Exchange (ADX). And there’s a rich trove of public data available on sites like data.gov.
Now, Alation has shipped Alation Marketplaces as part of our data intelligence platform. Alation Marketplaces lets users search & explore datasets across the aforementioned sources and beyond, so they can discover data their companies don’t yet have but perhaps should. This means Alation users can find relevant data both within and outside of their organization.
Why the ‘S’?
Alation Marketplaces is not “just another marketplace.”. Technically it’s — forgive me for nerding-out — a meta-marketplace. In lay terms, it’s kinda like a big virtual mall. Individual data providers (like Knoema or SafeGraph) are like brands and each individual marketplace is like a department store (like, say, Macy’s). Many brands place products in multiple department stores and each department store carries a variety of brands with some overlap. But as a consumer you’re often not sure which particular place will have what you need, so you want to go to one place to get all your shopping done.
That’s our vision for Marketplaces. When you want to discover new datasets, you can just go to Alation Marketplaces instead of needing to search on multiple separate marketplace sites.
Augmentation & Enrichment
Who benefits from this new product? If you’re an academic researcher, there’s a wealth of knowledge to be mined from stand-alone 3rd-party datasets. But we’ve also found that our enterprise customers typically seek external data to combine with their internal data for entirely new insights.
Take location data as an example. A company might join their sales data per ZIP code with demographic data from the census. This new table could enable data scientists to find statistically significant correlations between sales of certain SKUs and the size of a given sub-population. For instance, maybe the combined dataset reveals that the company should really be marketing Product X to 25-to-44-year-old Asian American women, and putting it on the shelves of stores they tend to frequent. SafeGraph has a dataset on the Snowflake Data Marketplace which could identify such places… which you can find (along with the census data) via Alation Marketplaces.
Other times, internal data augmentation can be super simple, but still super helpful. For instance we were delighted to help Patricia Ledlum, a senior data governance manager at RaceTrac. Patricia leveraged Marketplaces to automate county mapping for tax purposes.
Alation Marketplaces allows us to become the champions of our data. With Alation Marketplaces, we can easily find the datasets we need to automate county-mapping. These datasets saved tons of time for our employees and helped us avoid tax issues.
Senior Data Governance Manager at RaceTrac
Over time, we plan to populate Marketplaces with more datasets and offer helpful data augmentation suggestions within the data catalog directly. We envision a future where someone like Patricia could add an accurate county column to her store locations table with just one click. The data we’re collecting with Alation Marketplaces will help us fulfill that dream.
Exploration and Integration
We’ve also invested in myriad user interface improvements to really help users navigate search results and understand the datasets that are out there. For instance, nearly identical datasets are consolidated into just one search result, and many datasets have previews so you can quickly understand what is available.
In certain cases — where we have access to the full dataset — we let people explore rich samples and then put that external data to use: users can either download it or even pull it into their organization’s databases via Alation Catalog (if and only if they have the requisite permissions, of course).
A picture is worth a thousand words, so hopefully these GIFs are worth a million:
Without Alation Marketplaces, numerous nearly-identical datasets from one provider, Sanborn, push Geolytica’s off the page.
In Alation Marketplaces, all the similar datasets (differing only by location, year, or sample) are consolidated together for easier browsing.
This “Design your Desired Dataset” interface lets the user search by specifying the columns (or even example values) that the ideal dataset for their needs would have.
Data users need an easy way to find trusted, quality data – alongside context to help them use it wisely. At Alation we’ve spent a decade helping users find relevant datasets hidden in their organization’s data environments. With Alation Marketplaces, we expand that capability beyond the confines of the enterprise. Now, customers can discover trusted, relevant datasets they don’t even have… yet!
- Why the ‘S’?
- Augmentation & Enrichment
- Exploration and Integration