The term data catalog is often used synonymously with data governance, master data management or data stewardship. A data catalog is, at heart, a list of all of the data sources used by an organization, the tables of data within those sources and the columns of attributes that make up those tables. Along with these listings, data catalogs can contain additional data (metadata) such as data types, typical values, how the data should be used for analysis, and any derived tables that aggregate or combine multiple other pieces of data.
In the past, data catalogues have been a necessary tool for regulatory compliance or as a check on development teams. More recently, some data catalog software offerings have added intelligence on common queries performed on the data, dashboards that use it, and machine learning models that depend on it – by inspecting code rather than relying solely on humans to type this in directly. We believe several trends are converging to escalate the importance of data catalogs, making this a trend to watch in 2022 and beyond.