Analyst Coverage: Daniel Howard
Alex Solutions Pty Ltd is an Australian start-up that has its headquarters in Melbourne, Australia. It was founded as recently as 2016, but despite this it has found a global customer base and significant industry recognition.
Last Updated: 12th February 2019
Mutable Award: One To Watch 2018
Alex Solutions is, in principle, an enterprise level solution for metadata management. In truth, Alex Solutions is not easy to describe in terms of a single use case. In actuality, the product is well equipped to handle several use cases, including data governance/data stewardship, data cataloguing, and data quality, especially where data lineage and traceability is a requirement. It is available both in-cloud and on-premises.
“Alex has helped our governance and data stewardship implementation. We look forward to utilizing Alex more and to add more of its new scanners in the future.”
“The Scanner Orchestration user interface is very good. The overall user interface consistency was evident and important to support our continued rollout across the bank.”
“We were initially attracted to Alex for the metadata lineage feature, but as we explored further the overall visual interface and depth of features has continued to impress our entire team.”
Alex Solutions uses ALEX Intelligent Scanners to collect metadata located throughout your system, then catalogue and profile it within a single platform. These scanners are exposed in the Scanner Marketplace, which allows you to manage any ongoing scanners, view a scan history, and schedule upcoming scans.
ALEX Intelligent Scanners are technology agnostic, meaning that they do not care where or how your metadata is stored. This includes compatibility with a wide range of third party products and formats; a selection of these are shown in Figure 1, and this list is being updated on a regular basis. This means that you can capture metadata from all the different components within your system and catalogue it all in a single location. This is clearly a major boon when it comes to cataloguing, governing, and otherwise just managing the metadata within a complex environment.
In addition to capturing metadata that already exists, Alex Solutions’ scanners are able to infer and subsequently generate new metadata which up until now had only existed implicitly, such as in logging information or usage statistics. This can be useful, for example, for identifying patterns in your metadata which have not been stated explicitly and that you may not even know about.
Moreover, you have the option of adding policy rules to the scanning process. When these are utilised, the product’s scanners will test incoming metadata to see if it complies with your policy rules and add additional business context to support analysis activities. For example, you could create a policy rule that would automatically flag sensitive data that is insufficiently protected. These scans can also be scheduled to run on existing metadata. An integrated workflow feature is also available to support and track relevant personnel and requests to support appropriate actions on the underlying data.
Similarly, you can leverage your scanners to automatically tag incoming metadata. This can be done deterministically based on business rules, or using pattern recognition via machine learning (also known as ‘Intelligent Tagging’). Tags can also be assigned manually after-the-fact within the Data Marketplace, with a full audit history of any edits made.
The Data Marketplace itself is shown in Figure 2. It allows you to access and explore the metadata you have collected via your scans in a variety of different ways. The home page, as you can see in Figure 2, is a dashboard that displays, among other things, a high-level summary of your collected metadata. The “explore” page goes into further detail in this regard, allowing you to view, search and filter your metadata before drilling down to see more detail. Note that all metadata ingested into the platform is indexed to enable highly performant searching and filtering. You are also able to view data flows or data lineage through your system, as well as subsets of those data flows that pertain to a particular data asset (known as a data map). The other tabs in this screenshot – capture, explore, analyse and action – do what their names suggest. For example, the “analyse” option allows you to view a variety of automatically generated analytics regarding your data, including, for example, data usage and compliance analytics.
There are two major business drivers for the adoption of solutions such as Alex. The first relates to leveraging the value of data, and the second to the protection or governance of data. One of the biggest drivers for data governance, and even more so for data cataloguing, is the need to manage all of your data (and therefore all of the metadata) within a complex environment composed of a large and diverse selection of products and tools. For example, particularly with the advent of GDPR, every organisation needs to discover and keep track of its sensitive data. This is much easier, safer and more efficient when you can identify that sensitive data consistently and universally across all of your data assets, rather than requiring a separate implementation for every part of your environment. This is one of the areas in which Alex Solutions excels, allowing you to view – and act on – your system holistically, rather than as a series of silos.
More than that, the quantity and value of data available to organisations is increasing at a rapid pace. According to IDC, it is doubling every two years. This has a number of knock-on effects, but two are particularly pertinent. First, the demand for data and metadata within organisations has increased, to the point that requiring business users to go through IT to be able to access or examine their data is often too slow. This is rapidly making self-service a must-have. Second, when dealing with Big Data, you need a system for automatically curating and profiling it: there is simply too much of it for organising it by hand to be feasible. Alex Solutions addresses both of these issues. For the former, it provides self-service via the data marketplace. For the latter, it features automatic data profiling and intelligent tagging.
The Bottom Line
It’s difficult to classify Alex Solutions, because it fits well into several different categories. If you’re after a data catalogue, or a metadata management solution, it certainly qualifies. It’s a capable product for data governance and data quality, too. In any of these cases, it is certainly worth consideration, particularly if your environment consists of a large number of different products. All in all, it is not a product to be dismissed lightly.