ASU's data warehouse migration to the cloud proves valuable

Cloud services boast faster speeds, lower costs and nearly infinite scalability

August 2, 2021

Serving over 125,000 students (on-campus and online), 15,000 staff and 4,000 faculty members, to say that Arizona State University has a large volume of data would be an understatement.

In fact, the university has amassed 50 billion (that's right, billion) rows of data, spread across 4,000 tables and collected from across over 50 products, tools and systems used across the university over the past decade. Download Full Image

The result? Over 1,700 published reports that provide data-driven insights to departments and business units across ASU to improve the experience of our communities.

ASU’s data warehouse provides key insights 

“All of this data is pulled into ASU’s data warehouse, which allows us to analyze these extremely large data sets to produce comprehensive reports. These reports offer insights to support business intelligence activities for departments across the university,” said Jason Green, IT director for ASU's data warehouse. Green further explained where the data is sourced from, noting over 50 service providers like Canvas, Workday, PeopleSoft and more.

And these reports are essential to the day-to-day activities for nearly every unit across ASU. For example, the University Registrar Services exports a suite of enrollment reports daily. These reports allow them to track how the university is trending in terms of enrollment numbers for the upcoming semester in comparison to the previous year. 

“Each of these reports provide meaningful insights that help drive business decisions and activities on a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly basis,” said Brandi Falls, director of analytics. “In doing so, we enable our partners across the university to use data-informed analysis to improve the overall experience of our students, faculty and staff.”

The move to the cloud

As part of the university’s shift to become a fully cloud-based infrastructure, overhauling the data warehouse from on-premise (meaning data being stored directly to servers on campus) to the cloud (an online service in which the data is not stored locally on a personal computing device or in a local data center) became a major undertaking for the data and analysis team.

Over the past two years, the team has worked diligently to migrate to Amazon Redshift’s Cloud Data Warehouse.

“One of the key offerings of the cloud is its scalability to meet demand, whether that’s peak loads to the servers which typically happen at the beginning of the semesters or lulls over holiday breaks,” Green said. “What this means is that you can pay for what you need when you need it.”

That’s because the cloud-based infrastructure enables the storage of large datasets at significantly faster speeds with lower costs. That matters in a world that is increasingly moving online, where the amount of data that is available to capture and store continues to grow exponentially.

The impact reaches across ASU

For the University Registrar Services, this migration to the cloud has already proven valuable. With fundamental changes to the data environment, most notably the migration to the cloud, the teams’ daily reports are running at much faster speeds. 

Before the migration to the cloud, the team had to send their enrollment reports in the late afternoon.

“Now, we send these reports much earlier in the day, which allows university leadership the ability to make more timely decisions using this information,” said Jennifer Hornsby, director of Registrar Technical Services. “With these reports sent, our team has more time to spend on other responsibilities, which includes the development of pre-built reports for our customers across the university to retrieve enrollment and student records data themselves, when they need it.”

Additional ASU clients leveraging such reports include the ASU Student Financial Aid and Scholarship Services, which runs daily reports to manage the activity and status of financial aid disbursements to the students. Other reports include graduation rates and statistics on faculty and employees by college or campus, to name a few. 

The data collected across ASU can and does serve the university’s community at large, and with the move of its data warehouse to the cloud, flexibility and easier access will expand the possibilities for other teams, offices, colleges and units.

Annie Davis

PR + Editorial Manager , University Technology Office, Creative + Communications


Edson College inaugural awards support dementia research projects

August 2, 2021

Two Arizona State University researchers were recently awarded $25,000 each to pilot projects focused on dementia research.

The funding was given out as part of the inaugural Edson Discovery Pilot Awards for Dementia Caregiving from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. A son who serves as a family caregiver for his elder father, holds his hands as they look at each other. Both men are wearing plaid shirts with bold colors. The Edson Discovery Pilot Awards for Dementia Caregiving will act as sort of a research incubator, fostering support for new and interesting projects that address a significant knowledge gap or advance current science. Photo from Canva Download Full Image

The recipients are Edson College Professor Linda Larkey and College of Health Solutions Assistant Professor Edward Ofori.

Larkey’s project will test the feasibility of helping family members caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease with a daily practice that uses a device to help focus and calm the nervous system and shift to positive, caring emotions. They’ll do this practice while sitting with their family member to encourage emotionally positive time together. 

Other caregivers will instead listen to music for 10 minutes daily to compare to the device-driven time for effects on feelings of caregiver burden, stress and resilience.

“Our team of investigators and I are honored and excited to be a part of this initiative in the college’s rapidly expanding focus on aging and cognitive function and the caregivers who make a difference in the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Central to this work is the vision of Dr. Yu who is leading this program to support a hub of researchers to build better solutions through collaboration,” Larkey said.

Ofori’s project will examine whether improving visuomotor skills through training can help ease symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It will also aim to establish perceptual-motor evaluation and training protocols in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease cohorts.

“It is a great honor to be a part of this inaugural award!” Ofori said. “This award helps my research program to recruit and build a foundation to examine how areas in the brain that are involved with visual integration and motor control impact those with memory loss and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

The awards were made possible through the generosity of Charlene and J. Orin Edson as part of their transformative $50 million dollar gift to Arizona State University in 2019.

In addition to the funds to conduct their pilot research studies, the awards program also provides mentorship and guidance from Edson College Professor and Edson Chair in Dementia Translational Nursing Science Fang Yu.

Ultimately the idea is that these and future projects will obtain strong preliminary data to be used to apply for external grants to continue the research.

“The upfront review and revision of the research protocol will position these projects to generate the preliminary data needed to support future proposals for funding. The consultant and I will continue to work with the awardees during the project implementation and dissemination period to help ensure methodological and scientific merits of the projects,” Yu said.

Edson College Dean Judy Karshmer says the Edson Discovery Pilot Awards for Dementia Caregiving will act as sort of a research incubator, fostering support for new and interesting projects that address a significant knowledge gap or advance current science.

“We know that ASU has some of the best minds in the world when it comes to Alzheimer’s and Dementia caregiving research. So our goal is to encourage these great minds to really go for it and we’ll fund you, guide you and help you test your hypothesis,” Karshmer said.

Another unique requirement of this new awards program is that the study must involve undergraduate students in a meaningful way, something both of these first projects do.

“This key feature is critical to plant the seeds of research and innovation to grow future generations of researchers and practitioners to affect research, policy, and service for years to come,” Yu said.

The inaugural projects began on Aug. 1.

Applications for the Edson Discovery Pilot Awards for Dementia Caregiving will open on a yearly basis. Dementia caregiving is broadly defined as involving caregivers who provide care to people with dementia, measuring caregiver outcomes or benefiting caregivers.

In order to be considered for selection, specific criteria must be met including that the study is led by an ASU faculty member with the skills and expertise to conduct it.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation