Data cataloguing vendor Alation adds channels exec to build out partnering strategy

Ken Hoang, best known as the founder and CEO of Siperian, becomes Alation's first VP of Strategy and Alliances, and is developing a strategy to broaden the Alation go-to-market through a partner ecosystem.

Ken Hoang, VP of strategy and alliances at Alation

San Francisco-based Alation has made a significant move to develop its channel strategy with the appointment of Ken Hoang as vice president of strategy and alliances. Hoang has been putting together a strategy and infrastructure to support a select channel of systems integrators and vendor partners, to significantly broaden Alation’s go-to-market capabilities and extend its strong growth to date.

Hoang’s background includes more than 25 years in tech, including being founder and CEO of Siperian, a master data management [MDM] pioneer that was acquired by Informatica in 2010. He joined Alation two months ago, and his position is a net-new for Alation, reflecting the company’s development to the point where such a role has become a necessity.

“The CEO had been handling some of the partnerships, and the head of marketing had been managing some as well,” Hoang said.

Alation was founded in 2013, and has had product in the market for about three years.

“Alation hasn’t been selling for a long time but it has been able to rapidly grow, and marketing is coming into its own,” Hoang said. “People are recognizing that data cataloguing is something that every enterprise needs, especially those with large amounts of data. Today there are massive amounts of data in things like LinkedIn, one of our customers. The challenge is finding it.”

The Alation platform improves search capability by data cataloguing, crawling multiple types of databases and repositories.

“The search industry has been crawling mainly unstructured data to date,” Hoang said. “We combine the two worlds of unstructured and structured repositories. We search relational databases, data warehouses, Salesforce and SAP systems, Tableau and other reporting systems – and also bring this together with the unstructured world, to crawl and index all an organization’s data.

“We enable you to not just show these assets but see what’s sensitive in them, to see what’s being utilized and what’s not being utilized,” Hoang added. “It allows people to collaborate and discuss, and also to provide feedback on top of that data set, like in Google Maps, to provide a tribal knowledge capability.”

Hoang said that Alation’s technology is distinct, and not the kind of solution that could be disintermediated by a cloud hyperscaler service.

“We are focused on understanding the value that we bring to business users,” he stated. “It’s more of a top-down perspective, and tying it in with artificial intelligence. These are things that we don’t think that Amazon or Google even understand yet because they are coming from the bottom up. We are a solution that solves hard business problems, like – how do you upsell and cross-sell with eight different clouds for eight different products. To do that, you need to understand the behaviour and users of those products, and allow them to ask questions and query on a  real-time basis.”

While the logical market for Alation is very large companies, it’s not the only one.

“In terms of sweet spot, the more complexity the better,” Hoang said. “But it would be remiss to think it’s just the giants. We recently sold to a fairly new company that is focused on online gaming, and had amassed a huge amount of data. We also have customers who are online retailers, and those in the Internet of Things. The amount of data being created there is torrential.”

While Alation, like most software companies, began with a direct model, Hoang said that some important indirect relationships began before he joined the company.

“Alation started selling direct, because in early days, you need to figure out how to sell it, and partners can’t teach you that,” Hoang said. “But we already have some deep partnerships. Teradata resells us because we have a value proposition that their customers struggle with. They become a black box without Alation.”

Hoang said that their focus now is on developing a couple dozen partners across all partner types.

“We are trying to be aggressive, but we want to place our bets on a few partners to make them as wildly successful as our customers,” Hoang said. “I’ve got more people knocking on my door than we can service, and as a fast-growing company, we need to focus. System integrators who built applications on top of our product are an important element for us, both global and regional SIs. We are very select in our vendor partnerships. We are unique in being a leader in this area, and over time, as more players understand the value of this, they will come to us and ask us to build this data catalogue capability.”

Hoang defined his job as building out a full partner ecosystem that will let Alation serve customers better.

“This may mean providing a capability that’s missing for some vendors, like our being Teradata’s data catalogue. We also provide a capability for system integrators who build, upsell and cross-sell solutions, but who are missing a capability around being able to trust and use data. We enable them to build that application on top, so they can build what they haven’t been able to do before.”

Some work still needs to be done to lay the framework for all this.

“Right now, because no one has been in the role before, I’m doing a lot of enablement – putting all the pieces in place – infrastructure and people,” Hoang said. “I had two people start on my team last week. We are making sure that when we go to market with partners, they know the recipes for success – the best practices, to make them successful. This includes things like what the governance model on top should be, and how they drive user adoption. That’s what we have to teach to our partners.

“I have already created a partner program, keeping it very simple,” Hoang added. “It’s a single tier program.”

All of this, Hoang emphasized, adds up to a bright future for Alation.

“We have some amazing customers, including some of the world’s largest organizations,” he said. “They can’t achieve their use cases without a data catalogue. Part of my strategy is to ensure we continue to drive and innovate for them.”