Democratising data with metadata is all about breaking down barriers and making data accessible, understandable, and usable for everyone within an organisation!
By masterfully managing and harnessing the power of metadata, we’re empowering individuals of all technical skill levels to confidently make well-informed, data-driven decisions.
Let’s redefine the way we interact with data, and unleash the full potential of everyone in your organisation!


# Understanding Metadata and Its Importance

Now, that sounds fancy, but what actually is metadata?
Think of a phone call - that’s your data, and the time, duration, and people involved are the metadata.

Metadata adds that vital context and information about data, such as its structure, meaning, origin, relationships, and quality.

In short, metadata is “Data about Data”.

So, how does metadata help our organisation democratise our data, you ask?

  • Supercharged data discovery: Metadata helps users effortlessly find the perfect data through swift search and navigation in data catalogues or data marketplaces.
  • Enhanced understanding: Metadata serves up essential insights about data, like its meaning, relationships, and structure, enabling users to really get to grips with it and put it to good use.
  • Trustworthy data quality: Metadata shows the quality, accuracy, and reliability of data, helping users have confidence in the information they’re working with and make top-notch decisions.
  • Data governance: Metadata is the backbone of data governance processes, such as tracking data lineage, ensuring data quality, and maintaining data privacy and security.
  • Streamlined collaboration: Metadata helps users from different departments and domains work together more effectively by providing a shared understanding of data and its context.

By democratising data with metadata, organisations can drive data-driven decision-making, spark innovation, and enhance collaboration, ultimately boosting their overall performance and competitiveness.


# How Can We Store This Metadata

So we just need to store all that lovely metadata.

When deciding on a metadata storage solution, organisations should consider their size, requirements, and unique data landscape.

For smaller organisations with simpler data structures, relational databases like MySQL or Postgres could be your perfect match!
But as your organisation and data complexity grow, you might find NoSQL databases like MongoDB or Cassandra offering the flexibility and scalability you need for unstructured or semi-structured data.

If metadata management and governance are your top priorities, specialised metadata repositories like Apache Atlas or Informatica Metadata Manager have got you covered with their tailor-made solutions.
And for those seeking a user-friendly platform with data discovery, lineage tracking, and collaboration features, data catalogues like Alation or Collibra are a dream come true!


# Metadata is the new data

Before you run off though and start implementing your metadata storage, let’s flip the script.
Instead of treating it like an afterthought, let’s put metadata centre stage, especially when it’s crucial for defining our organisation’s future.

Picture this: some organisations don’t even want to analyse data, just metadata.
Take the NSA, for example. They likely have a gargantuan datalake chock-full of metadata, which they can use to accurately purchase or subpoena data from tech giants.
When we think of a system designed to trace and record every action, you may end up producing far more metadata than data.

Metadata is data.
Introducing the metadatalake, or “metalake” for short!
It’s a centralised storage and management solution that takes metadata management to a whole new level.
Metalakes store metadata from various sources in a unified, accessible, and scalable manner.
They often use a knowledge graph-based architecture to manage and store metadata, capturing the relationships, context, and semantics of data assets.

Here’s what a metalake can bring to the table:

  • Supercharged metadata discovery and search: Centralising metadata storage makes it a simple for users to discover and search for the metadata they need.
  • Top-notch metadata management and governance: A metalake offers a unified platform to manage and govern metadata across the organisation, ensuring data quality, security, and compliance.
  • Next-level metadata analytics and insights: Metalakes let organisations apply advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to metadata, revealing valuable insights, detecting patterns, and improving overall data quality.
  • Scalability: A metalake can accommodate heaps of metadata, making it perfect for organisations with growing data assets and complex data landscapes.

By storing metadata in a metalake, organisations can manage, discover, and leverage their metadata more effectively, driving data democratisation, informed decision-making, and increased collaboration.


# Metalake design

Instead of bombarding you with theory, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of building our very own metalake!

First up, the Data Ingestion Layer is all about handling various internal and external data sources, such as databases, file systems, APIs, or data streams.
We’ll create services to extract, load, and validate metadata from these sources.

Next, in the Metadata Processing Layer, we’ll ensure metadata integrity with data quality checks and validations.
We’ll also combine metadata from multiple sources, ironing out discrepancies and pinpointing relationships.

The Metadata Storage Layer now comes into play, where we’ll store metadata and its relationships in a knowledge graph for fantastic semantic context and discoverability.
We’ll also organize metadata in a data catalog, making searching and browsing a total breeze.

With the Metadata Analytics Layer, we’ll let loose machine learning and cutting-edge algorithms to spot patterns, boost quality, and glean insights from metadata.
We’ll also keep an eye on metadata quality, usage, and other key metrics with monitoring and alerts.

In the Data Marketplace Layer, we’ll expose metadata through APIs for real-time communication between frontend services and storage layers.
We’ll serve up user-friendly visualisation and exploration tools for metadata and data assets.
Additionally, we’ll ensure proper data usage with access controls, data contracts, and governance mechanisms.

Finally, the Integration Layer helps us seamlessly connect the metalake with existing data management tools, reporting platforms, and development environments.

These six stages will guide us in building a robust and efficient metalake that can effectively manage, store, and analyse metadata to drive data democratization and informed decision-making.


# Machine Learning

Now we have our scalable and performant datalake, we can supercharge it with machine learning. The goal is to make the data marketplace smarter and more efficient.
Here’s how we can step up our game with Machine Learning:

  • Pattern Detection: Unleash machine learning algorithms to analyse metadata and uncover hidden patterns, relationships, and trends.
  • Data Quality Boost: Train machine learning models to spot potential data quality hiccups, like missing or inconsistent metadata, and suggest fixes.
  • Automatic Metadata Classification: Use machine learning to auto-classify and categorise metadata based on content and context.
  • Data Product Recommendations: Analyse metadata usage patterns with machine learning algorithms to recommend spot-on data products for users based on their needs and preferences.

In short, machine learning algorithms can help automate various metadata management tasks, saving time and effort while also providing more accurate and intelligent insights.


# Wrapping Up

Metadata plays a pivotal role in driving digital transformation and data democratization within organisations.
The key is to know your organisations goals and requirements, having metadata is only a small part of democratising it, the real hurdle is integrating it into the workflow of your colleagues.
This requires close communication and collaboration to design and architect the desired environment.