Why is the distance from data to discovery so long?

Show me someone who works with big data, and I’ll show you someone who has asked the question.

And while most data scientists, analytics professionals and business analysts can give you a list of steps they have to take before they can even begin to extract insights from information, some will fess up to something else too — it may not be a completely virgin path they’re traveling to get answers. Someone may have been here before.

If that's the case, then being able to follow his footprints and learn from his experience would sure come in handy. CliffsNotes and SparkNotes would be of help, too.

But there’s no easy way to find out who that person was, even if he works at your company, and to know what he was looking for. It’s a large enterprise that’s inhospitable to bread crumbs.

It doesn’t have to be this way, according to Satyen Sangani. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Alation, the data accessibility company that emerges from stealth today.

Google for Data?

“What Google did for people, we’re going to do for data around the enterprise,” he said.

And this means surrounding data with context, he explained.

So suppose you want to know the average age of workers in the enterprise.

The first thing you might do is to see if someone has run the query before. (It’s a more difficult question to answer than you’d think because the number of people in a particular age group may be clustered.)

But there are lots of data workers in the company who might have asked the question and you don’t even know them all.

If it appears that no one has asked the question, you might look to see if anyone has run relevant queries that you might benefit from.

But that’s not easy to discover either. At least not up until today.

“Alation is a system that tells (you) the fastest way to get the right answer,” said Sangani. “Whether it’s finding the right database to use, learning about best practice methods, appropriately modifying a query or asking an expert.”

Meet Alation

And one of the best things about Alation is that it learns as you work.

The answer can be given not only to the person who asked the question, but the answer, and the data involved, can then be stored in Excel or in a Wikipedia like style.

“Our founding team has the right combination of deep enterprise, design, engineering and search expertise to address the problem of making data accessible,” said Sangani.

The team comes from Oracle, Apple and AppNexus, among other companies.

Answers are gleaned via a combination of machine learning and human insight.

Today, Alation is delivering proven customer success in four core solution areas:

  • Collaborative Analytics – Alation improves analyst productivity, delivers faster time-to-insight and lowers the cost of hiring and retaining analysts.
  • Data Search and Discovery – Alation’s unified search means analysts, data scientists, stewards and data consumers can find the information they need, faster.
  • Data Warehouse Optimization – Alation helps organizations realize infrastructure cost savings and a more efficient data infrastructure.
  • Effective Data Governance – Alation empowers data governance initiatives resulting in lower costs of compliance, lower operational risk, increased productivity for stewards and cost savings by automating the key areas of the governance process.

Current customers include eBay, Inflection and MarketShare among others.

While calling Alation Analytics 2.0 may seem tired, it’s one of the closest solutions we’ve seen to help end users get answers more easily and independently.