A data catalog centralizes access to all of an organization’s available data assets through a metadata inventory. This repository facilitates dataset search and retrieval so that users and systems can easily find the information needed for business. A data catalog differs from a data dictionary in its ability to search and retrieve information.
Data catalogs “may have started as little more than repositories for database schema, sometimes accompanied by business documentation around the database tables and columns,” according to Oksana Sokolovsky and Rohit Mahajan of Io-Tahoe. But, “instead of looking up a table name and reading its description, users and systems can search for business entities. Then, these people and machines can find related datasets to quickly perform analysis and derive insights.”
While business terms, found in a data catalog, can also be found in business glossaries, a data catalog looks more like a directory. Data catalogs assume users already know or have easy access to business definitions. Data catalogs’ self-service capabilities make them valuable in business intelligence. In addition, customized data catalogs can speed up data computing and storage, making datasets more readily available for use.