Fivetran Modern Data Stack Conference 2023: Key Takeaways

By Jason Lim

Published on April 14, 2023

Fivetran Modern Data Stack Conference 2023

Another week, another incredible conference!

Last week, the Alation team had the privilege of joining IT professionals, business leaders, and data analysts and scientists for the Modern Data Stack Conference in San Francisco. Fivetran, the leader in cloud data integration and pioneer in the ETL space, not only coined the phrase “modern data stack” with the company’s conception 11 years ago, but has since grown to become an indispensable piece of that stack – as well as a trusted partner to Alation.

The show floor was buzzing with industry experts, networking and sharing valuable insights on the latest developments in the data space. Practitioners and hands-on data users were thrilled to be there, and many connected as they shared their progress on their own data stack journeys. People were familiar with the value of a data catalog (and the growing need for data governance), though many admitted to being somewhat behind on their journeys.

In this blog, I’ll share a quick high-level overview of the event, with an eye to core themes. Let’s dive in!

Potent presentations

DJ Patil served as the first Chief Data Scientist of the United States under Obama, and he kicked off the conference with a riveting keynote. In his speech, Patil recounted his experience of being on the US’ Covid-19 governance response team and revealed how a data catalog was a critical element to knowing what data the team already had.

Patil also highlighted the need for pragmatic, data-driven leadership, saying “Every boardroom needs a Spock.” For those unfamiliar with Star Trek, Spock is known for his logical, analytical, and unemotional approach to making decisions – making him an ideal advisor in high-pressure situations.

Not to say that pragmatists alone are key to boardroom strategy sessions. Patil spoke about the value of telling stories with data, and boiled this down to three simple yet powerful elements:

  • The data points have names

  • Learn their names

  • Tell their stories

By uncovering the histories behind the data points, practitioners, as well as business users, can unlock deeper understanding – and drive more meaningful impact.

In the last general session from Day 1, George Fraser, CEO and co-founder of Fivetran, was joined by a range of leaders from Eckerson Research, Amplify, and others. In “The modern data stack is dead, long live the modern data stack!” the presenters elaborated on the common pain points of the cloud data warehouse today and predicted what it may look like in the future.

Cloud costs are growing prohibitive. And there’s a growing consensus that dumping all data into the cloud data warehouse is too expensive to be sustainable – though presenters expressed doubt that this may be the case for just small use cases. With the rise of AI, the speakers speculated that the future modern data stack may not be designed with human consumers in mind, but set up instead for AI/ML.

What did attendees take away from the event? According to Paul Walker, account executive at Alation, the biggest message at MDSCon was that “the power is in the hands of business users.”

“Nearly every organization is trying to modernize and build out their modern data stacks,” Walker details. “This makes ease of use and time to value more important than ever. The robust community on the show floor made one thing clear: There is plenty of help, in the form of partners and resources, to get clients to where they need to be.”

A “stacked” showing on the floor

The Alation team was there in force, sharing how data intelligence helps you make the most of the modern data stack. We had a great time meeting with customers and demonstrating how a data intelligence platform delivers visibility across the data stack with demos.

Presenting Moder Data Stack Conference

Alationauts enjoying the Fivetran Modern Data Stack Conference
Presentation at the Alation booth at the Fivetran Modern Data Stack Conveference

So, how can a data catalog support the critical project of building data pipelines? Mitesh Shah, VP of Product Marketing, took the stage to answer this question. In his presentation, Mitesh shared how data intelligence helps joint users of Alation and Fivetran “look before they leap” as they go about the challenging process of building data pipelines (check out the slides from the “Look Before Your Leap” session here!)

In his talk, Mitesh revealed that Alation delivers useful information about data via metadata, and explored why context is key to building reliable data pipelines. In the race to migrate to the cloud, he detailed, data leaders risk moving unused data (which is pricey), moving sensitive data (which is risky), and leaving on-premises sources behind (which is confusing for the data user).

How can data leaders respond? By slowing down, and gathering intelligence about the data in a platform like Alation. With a data catalog, leaders can migrate only what matters (saving money) and keep sensitive data secure (lowering risk) – ultimately creating an environment where users are guided to trusted data, no matter its location. When it comes to quickly and reliably moving data, data intelligence is a must!

This presentation reflects the broader purpose of Alation’s recent integration announcement with dbt and Databricks – to ease self-service access and understanding across the modern data stack.

With the latest release of 2023.1, we’ve deepened our integrations with the Databricks Unity Catalog, enabling joint customers to sample, profile, and query lakehouse data directly from Alation. Meanwhile, we’ve also delivered new connectivity for dbt; with this integration, joint users can see dbt table and column level descriptions within Alation, enabling engineers to better understand asset transformations, no matter where they’ve occurred.

Data with a view (and a peek at the future too!)

The Alation team capped off an incredible conference with a fun-filled evening event. After a day of thought leadership about digital innovation, there was lots of excitement from partners and clients on how they can accelerate their own migrations and shifts to the cloud.

At the party, we had the good fortune of hosting some long-time customers and partners, who emboldened and energized some of our newer clients with stories of what success looks like three years down the road.

Alationauts enjoying their time together at the Fivetran Modern Data Stack Conference 2023
Group commemorating at the Fivetran Modern Data Stack Conference 2023
Alationauts enjoying their time together at the Fivetran Modern Data Stack Conference 2023

As anyone who’s led a digital transformation will tell you, there is no “finish line” – and the most competitive companies evolve continuously, using data to build on competitive advantages. This presents both challenges and opportunities for modern businesses.

As we look ahead to the next year, we’re excited to unveil a number of innovations and new integrations in the coming months that will further empower data users to adapt to changing market conditions and help them use data more wisely to drive the business forward.

We have a jam-packed conference schedule ahead. Be sure to catch us at these upcoming events:

We can’t wait to see you there!

Keen to learn more about Fivetran’s evolution? Listen to the podcast interview featuring co-founders George Fraser and Taylor Brown in conversation with Alation CEO Satyen Sangani.

  • Potent presentations
  • A “stacked” showing on the floor
  • Data with a view (and a peek at the future too!)
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