Data Engineering Podcast

This show goes behind the scenes for the tools, techniques, and difficulties associated with the discipline of data engineering. Databases, workflows, automation, and data manipulation are just some of the topics that you will find here.

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03 October 2022

Make Data Lineage A Ubiquitous Part Of Your Work By Simplifying Its Implementation With Alvin - E329

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Data lineage is something that has grown from a convenient feature to a critical need as data systems have grown in scale, complexity, and centrality to business. Alvin is a platform that aims to provide a low effort solution for data lineage capabilities focused on simplifying the work of data engineers. In this episode co-founder Martin Sahlen explains the impact that easy access to lineage information can have on the work of data engineers and analysts, and how he and his team have designed their platform to offer that information to engineers and stakeholders in the places that they interact with data.


  • Hello and welcome to the Data Engineering Podcast, the show about modern data management
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  • Your host is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Martin Sahlen about his work on data lineage at Alvin and how it factors into the day-to-day work of data engineers


  • Introduction
  • How did you get involved in the area of data management?
  • Can you describe what Alvin is and the story behind it?
  • What is the core problem that you are trying to solve at Alvin?
  • Data lineage has quickly become an overloaded term. What are the elements of lineage that you are focused on addressing?
    • What are some of the other sources/pieces of information that you integrate into the lineage graph?
  • How does data lineage show up in the work of data engineers?
    • In what ways does your focus on data engineers inform the way that you model the lineage information?
  • As with every data asset/product, the lineage graph is only as useful as the data that it stores. What are some of the ways that you focus on establishing and ensuring a complete view of lineage?
    • How do you account for assets (e.g. tables, dashboards, exports, etc.) that are created outside of the "officially supported" methods? (e.g. someone manually runs a SQL create statement, etc.)
  • Can you describe how you have implemented the Alvin platform?
    • How have the design and goals shifted from when you first started exploring the problem?
  • What are the types of data systems/assets that you are focused on supporting? (e.g. data warehouses vs. lakes, structured vs. unstructured, which BI tools, etc.)
  • How does Alvin fit into the workflow of data engineers and their downstream customers/collaborators?
    • What are some of the design choices (both visual and functional) that you focused on to avoid friction in the data engineer’s workflow?
  • What are some of the open questions/areas for investigation/improvement in the space of data lineage?
    • What are the factors that contribute to the difficulty of a truly holistic and complete view of lineage across an organization?
  • What are the most interesting, innovative, or unexpected ways that you have seen Alvin used?
  • What are the most interesting, unexpected, or challenging lessons that you have learned while working on Alvin?
  • When is Alvin the wrong choice?
  • What do you have planned for the future of Alvin?

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Parting Question

  • From your perspective, what is the biggest gap in the tooling or technology for data management today?

Closing Announcements

  • Thank you for listening! Don’t forget to check out our other shows. Podcast.__init__ covers the Python language, its community, and the innovative ways it is being used. The Machine Learning Podcast helps you go from idea to production with machine learning.
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The intro and outro music is from The Hug by The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

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