Alation Glossary

Alation Cloud Service Applies to Alation Cloud Service instances of Alation

Customer Managed Applies to customer-managed instances of Alation

This table defines some common terms used in Alation.



Agile Approval

A collaboration workflow enabling Alation users to request reviews and provide approvals for Article objects ensuring that articles are credible sources of information.

Alation Analytics

A database that surfaces catalog usage data to provide a way for governance officers and analysts to implement better adoption of the Alation catalog and drive more value at their company from exploring ways their users interact with the data.

Alation Catalog

The component of the Alation software that serves to catalog and describe data sources offering several applications on top (such as Agile Approval or Stewardship Dashboard). This is often referred to as “the Catalog”. Also see Compose.

Alation Object

An entity in the Alation catalog that can have a dedicated catalog page. Almost everything you see in Alation is an object, for example: a data source object, a table object, a query object, or an article object.

Alation Search

A set of features that allow searching and finding objects in the Catalog.

Allie the Robot

Our mascot of the machine learning algorithm in Alation. Machine learning is used to suggest comprehensive titles for data objects. You can see Allie’s image in various messages in Alation, and you will also see the “robot head” icon


next to an auto-suggested title.

Alation Role

When you hear Alation roles, it is usually one of the roles a user can be assigned when they join Alation: Viewer, Composer, Steward, Catalog Admin, or Server Admin. Also see Data Source Admin.


An object in the Alation catalog that can be used for data documentation. You can create an article to store some long-form written content, such as detailed data policies or analytical insights. Articles can be added to Article Groups that help bind related pieces of information together.

Article Group

An object that is a “collection” of articles based on the same custom template. Articles can be grouped into an article group when they are related to one topic and are complementary to each other.

Built-in Field

A field on a catalog page template that cannot be removed or modified. This typically has property values.

Catalog Admin

A role in Alation granted to users whose primary task is curating the catalog and supervising the curation effort by other users.

Catalog Page

A dedicated page for an Alation object that you see in the Alation Catalog. Catalog pages are based on customizable templates that have built-in and custom fields. Users enrich their catalog by providing field values-information describing the Alation object.

Catalog Page Template

Template used to “assemble” a catalog page from built-in and custom fields. Alation has two types of catalog page templates: object templates and article templates (or custom templates). Article templates can be created by users. Both types of templates can be customized by adding custom fields.

Catalog Set

Alation object that enables you to group data objects together and perform bulk edit operations on custom fields. Bulk edits are done on the Catalog Sets page, rather than on the data object page.

Column Lineage

Visual representation (a diagram) of how tables, views, and BI reports are derived from other tables, at the column level. Also see Lineage.


This is the Alation query tool. You can access Compose either using your web browser or by downloading the Alation Compose app to your computer.


Alation enables you to publicly ask and answer questions through Conversations, which live on any data object, query, result set, or user profile.

Custom Field

A catalog field created by a user that can be added to catalog page templates.

Custom Template

Catalog page template for the article object that can be created by Catalog Admins and modified by adding/removing custom fields.

Customer Portal

An Alation-managed site for Alation admins. Accessible with a login you receive when you install Alation at

Data Source

An Alation object representing a database connection in the Alation catalog.

Data Source Admin

A function at the data source level for accessing and editing the settings of a data source. Data Source Admins can view and edit the data source settings, including the connection properties and parameters for metadata extraction, profiling, and query log ingestion. See Access Tab.

Data Steward

A field on catalog pages of data objects that stores the names of users who are stewarding this data object in the Alation Catalog. The Data Stewards field can be used for filtering the reports on My Stewardship Dashboard and the curation reports (Curate menu > Curation Progress, Catalog Activity, Data Objects Without Stewards).

Dynamic Profiling

When enabling dynamic profiling:

  • Profiles will be user specific and user initiated.

  • Profiling will use user’s database credentials.

  • Automatic profiling will be disabled.


Alation learns from you every time you run a query. If you join tables or use a data expression, Alation will automatically pick it up and enable you to save it for quick reuse. On the table Catalog page, all previously used JOIN clauses are on the Joins tab. Data expressions are on the Filters tab.


An object that is a “collection” of terms based on the same term type template.


Alation learns from you every time you run a query. If you join tables or use a data expression, Alation will automatically pick it up and enable you to save it for quick reuse. On the table Catalog page, all previously used JOIN clauses are on the Joins tab. Data expressions are on the Filters tab.


A system job that matches abbreviations found in the names of data objects with the comprehensive words, or expansions. Lexicon is used for auto-titling and creating Suggested Words for Article Groups.


Diagram on the data object page that helps trace the origin of data in Tables and Columns and gives visibility into how data in a source moves and transforms over time. Input data for Lineage diagrams comes from QLI, queries in Compose, and can be added using the dedicated API.

Metadata Extraction (MDE)

Extraction of metadata from a data source into the Catalog with the goal of synchronizing them and providing Alation users with a representation of the data contained in this source. Metadata extraction can be run manually or on an automatic schedule.

NoSQL Database

NoSQL databases are software systems that provide storage and query capabilities to support specific data models and access patterns for building modern applications using flexible schemas.

Object Template

Catalog page template for Alation objects, such as data objects and queries. This can be modified by adding or removing custom fields. This cannot be created or removed by Alation users.

Obfuscate Literals

When enabled, hides all literals in queries. Only the query owner will be able to see the full query.

Object Type

Property of an Alation object that describes what kind of object it is. Each specific Alation object has a type. For example, your MySQL data source is an object of type “data”, or your article “How to use JOINs in Alation Analytics Database” is an object of type “article”.


An indicator of the intensity of use of a data object. Popularity is determined with an algorithm that accounts for both query ingestion (the number of data source accounts that used the object and the number of times the object was used) and Compose usage (the number of Alation users that used the object in Compose and the number of times the object was used).


Creation of data samples for the cataloged data sources. When you perform data profiling in Alation, it scans the first 10,000 rows of a table. A data sample is a random sample of 100 rows out of the 10,000 scanned rows intended to provide you an insight to what kind of data is contained in the profiled table without the need to run a query.


See Data Steward.

Query Collaboration

A collaborative workflow in Compose that lets users develop queries together. You can co-create queries leveraging the expertise of all Authors and the institutional knowledge. A query Owner can start the collaboration workflow by adding Authors to their queries. All Authors can take turns editing the query statement. They can also invite more Authors to contribute.

Query Execution

The action and process of running a query using Alation. You may also encounter the term “query run” which is equivalent to query execution.

Query Log Ingestion (QLI)

The processing of the database query logs in order or to calculate Popularity, Lineage, Top Users, and to supply filter and JOIN information to the catalog.

Query Result Table

The results of the query execution. You can save the results of a query as the Result Table object in the Alation catalog.

Server Admin

A role in Alation that has access to the full scope of functionality in the Catalog and Compose, including the application settings.

Social Querying

See Query Collaboration.

Standard User

A role in Alation that has access to Compose and the main features of the Catalog, with the exception of admin settings and catalog customization tools (such as templates and custom fields).

Top Users

On Schema and Table catalog pages, Alation automatically lists Top Users through calculating expert status. Alation calculates expertise on a data object based on several factors: number of the user’s queries that mention the data object, number of times the user added comments, titles, or descriptions to the data object page, nomination by other users.

Tree Table

A table-like element of the catalog interface with expandable rows revealing nested elements. Mostly used to represent complex data types, such as records, arrays, or structs.

Virtual Data Source

A type of source object in Alation that can be used to catalog data storage that is either unsupported by Alation with a built-in or custom driver or for some reason cannot be accessed from Alation using the URI (could be for security reasons). There is no automated MDE, Profiling and Sampling, or QLI for Virtual Sources, and the metadata should be uploaded using the API. One example of the use of a Virtual Data Source is to catalog Avro schemas from data streaming platforms. Virtual Sources can be used for querying in Compose if the database supports SQL dialects and if you choose to add the Compose connection information.