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What is a Data Catalog and Do you Need One?

By 2019, data and analytics organizations that provide agile, curated internal and external datasets for a range of content authors will realize twice the business benefits of those that do not. (Gartner  Report)

Many organizations are still trying to understand the value of data catalog, metadata management, and cataloging.  As data unification and collaboration becomes critical to the success of organizations, there are many benefits to look at as part of an organization’s data-driven strategy.

What is a Data Catalog

A data catalog maintains an inventory of data assets through discovery, organization, and description of data.  This catalog provides organization and descriptions of data for data analysts, data scientists, data stewards, and other data consumers to understand the relevance and purpose for the business.

Data catalogs do not only provide context to stakeholders for finding and understanding data, but they also can automate metadata and data management for efficiency and collaboration.  Stakeholders can both understand and curate data so as to leverage data catalogs for expanded and advanced usage.

A data catalog becomes the single source of trust that unifies all metadata that can be shared within the organization for easy collaboration.  Organizations can automatically discover, profile, organize, and document metadata to make it more searchable and give a clear understanding of datasets to unlock business intelligence and data value.

A data catalog can automatically harvests data and add data to existing data.  Metadata is data about data and adds meaningful information to datasets, to improve usability to make data a real asset for the organization.

Data Catalog Uses

The concept of a data catalog has become popular because of the growing amounts of data that organizations now have to manage and access. Cloud, big data analytics, AI, and machine learning are changing the way we need to see, manage, leverage, and access our data.

A data catalog allows for better data usage and contributes to:

  • Cost savings
  • Operational efficiency
  • Competitive advantages
  • Better customer experience
  • Fraud and risk advantage


Many data users and customers have trouble finding the right data and understanding whether it’s useful. Data catalogs provide an easier way to see purpose around data.

Audit, Compliance, and Change Management.

Increasing government regulations require audit of data, where data artifacts are coming from, or how it’s getting transformed.  It is important to know how changes in one part of a data pipeline affect other parts of the system.

Data Governance and Business Glossaries

Most organizations have a vocabulary that is consistent and can be used for business concepts.  A data catalog is a good place to store and manage vital business information as such.

A data catalog allows you to establish links between business terms.  It can record relationships between terms and physical assets. It enables users to understand which business concepts are relevant to what technical artifacts to classify data assets along business concept lines.

Data catalogs allow for better data governance, managing the availability, usability, integrity, and security of the data in enterprise systems. Effective data governance ensures that data is consistent and trustworthy and doesn’t get misused.

What is a Modern Data Catalog?

A modern data catalog is a future-proof architecture for business and data analytics.  It is a functional architecture that has all components to support modern data warehousing, machine learning, and AI development, and real-time data ingesting & processing.

Modern data catalogs have an extensive range of powerful capabilities such as pattern detection, relationship discovery, pervasive profiling, automatic harvesting, and classification.   These features enable one to highlight data quality issues to apply corrective action.

Challenges that a Data Catalog Can Help With

The world growing in data, being able to find the right data is becoming more difficult.  Not only is data access becoming a challenge, but data governance is as well.  It is crucial to know what your store data is, what it’s being used for, and how it needs to be protected.  Not enough information about data makes it useless.  There are many challenges with finding and accessing the right data.

Some of these challenges include:

  • Wasted time and effort on finding and accessing data
  • Data lakes turning into data swamps
  • No common business vocabulary
  • Hard to understand structure
  • Difficult to assess the quality and trustworthiness of data
  • Difficult to use or reuse knowledge and data assets

What Should a Data Catalog Offer?

When choosing a data catalog software, assess key capabilities.

Some key capabilities to look for:

Flexible Search and Discovery

A good data catalog should have flexible searching and filtering options to quickly find relevant sets of data or enable them to find metadata based on data assets. Enabling tags improves search capabilities.

Metadata Harvesting

Data catalog should be able to harvest technical metadata from connected data assets like object storage, databases, on-premise and connected systems.

Metadata Curation

Metadata Curation provides a way for experts to contribute business knowledge through tags, annotations, classifications, ratings, and more.

Data Intelligence Automation

AI and machine learning are features of today and the future.  Tasks that can be automated should be automated with AI and machine learning techniques on metadata that is collected and provide data recommendations.

Enterprise Capabilities

An organization’s data catalog should provide abstraction across all persistence layers like object stores, databases, data warehouses, and querying services that can work across all data stores.

In an enterprise, a data catalog is a necessity.

A data catalog should be the cornerstone of an organization’s data strategy. If you wish to take control of data, create policies that help stop polluting your data store, build a single place of trusted data designed for collaboration, and start a data strategy that practice privacy regulations such as GDPR.

Originally posted 2020-10-01 21:56:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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