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California State University System Wraps Hybrid Cloud Data Project

The California State University (CSU) system has gone public with a multi-year initiative to provide faster development and updates of applications and greater access to data for its 23 campuses. The project uses cloud and big data technologies, relying on products and services provided by Unisys, Delphix and Amazon Web Services (AWS). CSU serves 486,000 students and employs more than 50,000 faculty and staff.

Several years ago, the system began its digital transformation with its Common Management System (CMS), an Oracle/PeopleSoft software application environment that delivers numerous institutional operations on both the student side (enrollment, management, scheduling and registration) and the employee side (human resources, financials and employee compensation).

To make the IT system accessible across all of the campuses, CSU adopted a hybrid cloud strategy that extended its existing infrastructure via AWS while managing data that exists both on-premises and in the cloud. Data migration streams from the CMS to AWS, across all campuses.

CSU uses the Delphix DevOps Data Platform to oversee data management operations, including spinning up and down and refreshing the data environments. The platform delivers virtual masked copies of the CMS production data on-demand.

This approach has two benefits. First, it uses less storage space compared to physical data storage, according to the companies. This has helped reduce CSU's physical storage consumption while allowing individual campuses to use self-service to clone and manipulate their data. Second, the data masking has helped increase the security posture of CSU institutions by replacing sensitive fields (such as social security numbers, e-mails and credit card information) with fictitious yet realistic data in the virtual data copies, without affecting the usefulness for application development and testing in the cloud.

Delphix's data automation also helps the system deliver data faster and more frequently to CSU's campuses. The application teams can now refresh copies with updated production data, rewind data to any previous point in time, and branch out data copies so data versions align with release versions.

Prior to Delphix, the CMS IT teams handled around 200 data cloning requests per month over a number of days to deliver services to individual campuses. Today, a smaller team runs more than 2,000 requests per month.

The system estimated that the use of Delphix and Unisys services has helped it save $4.5 million each year and avoid future costs of over $7 million annually in data storage expenditures.

"Using Delphix and Unisys to implement our hybrid architecture strategy allows us, for the first time, to create a unified and secure data lake, populated daily with data from all 23 campuses. This makes the data easily accessible and quickly consumable at a large scale," said CSU CIO Michael Berman, in a press release. "Our data analysts, data scientists and developers can now drive faster innovation and proactively establish student support programs to improve graduation rates."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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