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ASU's data warehouse migration to the cloud proves valuable

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

August 02, 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.

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.

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