Databricks Data + AI Summit 2023: A Partnership for Lakehouse Governance

By Mark Kwiatkowski

Published on July 14, 2023

Birds-eye-view of a group of business people working together in an office setting.

When you call your annual event “Data + AI Summit,” it’s no surprise that this year’s theme was “Generation AI” — so named, according to Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi in his keynote address, because attendees “are part of this generation that’s going to form the future of the planet… the future of generative AI, machine learning and data.” 

For Ali and his team, the big advance is the democratization of AI. Like the advent of the personal computer and then the web browser, generative AI is the catalyst for making AI accessible to everyone. And underneath it all is the data. This was underscored by Databricks co-founder Patrick Wendall who said that “data needs to be at the center of your AI strategy”.

Nor was it a surprise that Alation was there. Yet the highly anticipated Databricks customer conference, held during the last week of June in San Francisco, was anything but predictable. A global tech community of 75,000 data users (12,000 in person) passionate about the impact of AI and LLMs on the modern data stack converged to share the latest developments and case studies within the most cutting-edge corner of our cutting-edge industry.

Two Alationauts hanging out with Allie at Alation’s booth at the Databricks Summit 2023 event.

The role of data governance in AI

Data governance plays a crucial role in the modern tech stack, particularly when it comes to implementing AI systems. AI relies heavily on trusted data, and data governance enhances the reliability, transparency, and ethical use of AI and ensures that data-driven decisions are made responsibly while mitigating risks associated with data quality, privacy, and compliance.

That’s why one of our personal highlights of Summit was being named Databricks’ Data Governance Partner of the Year for our commitment to data governance on Databricks Lakehouse.

Hear from Alation CEO Satyen Sangani about what this win means for Alation during his interview with Bloomberg Technology.

Databricks lauded our investment in integrating with Unity Catalog, as well as our becoming their first data catalog partner to launch on Databricks Partner Connect, making it easier for Databricks users to “test drive” Alation.

(It’s also worth noting that Databricks has doubly committed to our partnership as an “investi-partner,” when Databricks Ventures participated in our latest Series E round of funding.)

As Alation CEO Satyen Sangani noted in an interview with SiliconANGLE, our federated approach to data governance — rather than a broader, top-down initiative — “gets you to this world where generative AI and AI is much more possible. Because now, you have much better data off of which you can run all of these different AI algorithms.”

Off to the races with RaceTrac

In the session “Unlocking the Power of Real-Time Data to Maximize Data Insights,” Raghu Jayachandran, Senior Manager of Enterprise Data at RaceTrac, revealed how his team has used Alation with Databricks to access and leverage real-time data insights to fuel the business.

Raghu Jayachandran, Senior Manager of Enterprise Data at RaceTrac presenting at the Databricks Summit 2023 event.

RaceTrac is known as one of the most popular gas station chains in the US Southeast. It comprises four major fragmented businesses, including the popular store chain, a franchise, a bulk oil supplier, and a distribution arm. Across 850 total stores, Raghu estimates that the company supports about 256 million transactions per year.

The ability to analyze and learn from all this data is critical to the business' continued success. "For RaceTrac, our CEO's mission was to make our company a data-driven organization," Raghu continued. But making sense of all that data posed considerable challenges. "We have many vendors and suppliers, each has their own API, formats and files, and everything was in silos."

To become data-driven, the CEO sought a solution that would create common standards and enable all data users at RaceTrac to speak the same language and make evidence-based decisions to drive the business.

A graph showcasing a cheesy recipe on adding the enterprise data catalog.
A graph showcasing a successful use case on how real-time analytics have impacted the business.
A graph showcasing lessons learned.

With Alation and Databricks, Raghu and his team have delivered on this vision. Databricks enables the team to manage diverse data, including unstructured data, as well as video and streaming and point of sale data. 

Out of the gate, Alation supported improved collaboration by granting visibility into all this data for previously siloed teams across one platform. As a result, the Racetrac team was able to break down data silos to expose new business insights – which enhanced speed-to-market on data project deliverables. Today, they’re pioneering a slew of exciting use cases, including live ticker data for fuel trading, live pumps data, signage data management, and more.

Alation at Databricks’s Industry Solutions Hub

Over at the Databricks Industry hub, the data intelligence collaboration and solutions continued. Eon Retief, Technical Director - Financial Service at Databricks, showed how visibility across all their data can speed up the delivery of insights for financial services customers. 

Eon delivered two demo sessions showcasing end-to-end governance. While Unity catalog provides foundational data governance and security, the demos showed how Anomalo improves data quality and Immuta ensures data security. Eon also revealed how with Unity, Alation provides key visibility, collaboration and governance to put that data into action. Together, the Databricks platform makes it easy to create a seamless experience for users with best-of-breed solutions.


Shortly after Databricks Data + AI Summit concluded, Alation CEO Satyen Sangani appeared on Bloomberg Technology to declare, “You can’t have trusted AI without trusted data.” 

But how can you ensure trusted data to fuel trusted AI? With data governance. From the start of the conference to the very end, it's clear that to power Generation AI, the most valuable and differentiated asset is your data. 

And with a modern, federated approach to data governance, Alation continues to empower business and data leaders with the knowledge and context they need to be data-driven. You can see for yourself how Alation works with Databricks with a 14 day free trial.

Let’s keep the conversation going: join us for revAlation 2023, Alation’s industry conference, coming to Chicago, London, and Sydney this Fall!

  • The role of data governance in AI
  • Off to the races with RaceTrac
  • Alation at Databricks’s Industry Solutions Hub
  • Conclusion
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