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Also posted on: The IM Blog
Teradata has announced a partnership with Alation. And not merely a partnership: Teradata will be reselling Alation. The salesforce is currently being trained on the product and the company expects to be full steam ahead by the end of February.
So, why is this important? The first thing to understand is who Alation is. I actually wrote about it when it came to market last April (http://www.bloorresearch.com/blog/im-blog/alation-comes-to-market/) but as a quick catch-up: Alation is a “data discovery” product. I’ve put “data discovery” in quotation marks because this is what vendors in this space – there aren’t very many of them – tend to call themselves. However, data discovery is also a subset or niche within the data profiling market so the term could be confusing. The key here is that Alation is designed to be used by business analysts and not IT folk. It lets users find out what data they have access to, where it lives and what it looks like. Of course, it is more sophisticated than that but those are the bare bones. You can think of Alation as a tool that you might want to use prior to using a data preparation product: the latter is not much use if you don’t know what data you have available to you.
Data preparation is particularly pertinent to this particular discussion because Teradata, which already has joint customers with Alation, is dropping Teradata Loom in favour of Alation. Loom is a product that Teradata gained when it acquired Revelytix in 2014. It is a sort of hybrid product with some data preparation functionality and some (meta)data management capabilities. There are a couple of things to say about this. Firstly, Loom, while it did what it did pretty well, was a bit isolated as a product: there were no comparable products from other vendors. If you wanted data management you could get something more comprehensive elsewhere, and the same would also be true in the data preparation space. So moving to something more mainstream makes sense from Teradata’s perspective.
However, Teradata is not just dropping Loom, it also plans to migrate Loom users to Alation. Now, you might immediately suppose that that wasn’t going to work unless Alation can provide comparable capabilities to Loom. However, Teradata tells me that the vast majority of its Loom users employ it only for metadata management – at which Alation is superior – and only a handful for data preparation. So the bulk of Loom users should be quite happy to migrate. The remainder are going to have three choices: continue using Loom until end-of-life, license a third party data preparation tool, or wait and hope that Alation will extend its capabilities into the data preparation space. I think the last of these is quite likely as I expect to see data discovery and data preparation products merge, and probably sooner rather than later (see http://www.bloorresearch.com/analysis/getting-to-actionable-insight/).
Returning to Teradata I have to say that I have been quite impressed with some of its announcements lately: I like the latest version of its Hadoop Appliance, I thought the partnership with SQLStream was a good idea, and I think this partnership with Alation is a smart move.