Data Catalog (Glossary)

A data catalog is a term used to refer to a repository of metadata used by an organization to manage its data. A data catalog is where information regarding the organization, use, and management of data sources and repositories supports data engineering, data science, and data analytics operations. 

Data Catalog allows for better data management. It helps to find and organize data assets through a given organization, acting as an inventory of the stored data while providing information that can be used to provide high-level insights and analytics. A data catalog serves as an index of the available data and efficiently finds datasets stored in data lakes, warehouses, or other databases. These datasets can be structured tabular data stored in data warehouses, unstructured data such as documents, text, video, or audio files stored in data lakes, machine learning models stored in repositories, and so on. 

Data catalogs can be used to support, for example, data engineering operations that need to keep track of changes in the schema of the data to execute transformations and aggregations in a given data pipeline successfully. This metadata can then be used to actively check that the incoming data has the expected schema and alert if any changes have occurred instead of failing silently. Gaps between data and metadata are a common problem on pipelines working with data from different sources as the data can suddenly change, for example, due to changes in a given API, and cause data pipelines to fail or produce wrong outputs.

Data Catalogs were designed to keep track of the current set of data assets throughout an organization efficiently, allowing users to find the appropriate set of data, know the current state, and actively adapt to changes in the data structure. It also provides a way of enriching and continuously aggregating data as it centralizes the information about content and use of the available data. Data teams can use such transformations to uncover new potential benefits of data, properly apply data governance policies, and comply with industry and government regulations.

Frequently, Data Catalogs are stored in data warehouses, or data lakes separated or centralized from the other data repositories where the datasets, which are the contents indexed in the Data Catalog, are stored. 

Read our complete data catalog guide!

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