Funidata Transforms Student Experience for Finnish Universities Using AWS


Universities often run complex infrastructures for administrative services that can negatively impact student and staff experience. When systems for course registration, exam marking, and degree certification are slow and unreliable, they limit students’ ability to learn, by preventing them from enrolling in their desired courses and completing their degrees on time.

Universities in Finland decided to address the issue directly. They sponsored the creation of a private company called Funidata to gain the flexibility and better performance of moving to the cloud from their on-premises setups.

Funidata built a student information system called Sisu on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Sisu has streamlined administrative processes, providing universities with a simpler and more secure way to manage day-to-day tasks. Using AWS has also helped Funidata to develop efficient processes for its IT team, so it has time to innovate, while the whole company can scale for future growth.


Using AWS, we’re more innovative, and we can provide greater availability and robustness for Sisu without increasing costs. All of this will continue, even as we grow.”

Toni Sallanmaa
Chief Technology Officer, Funidata

Student Systems More Reliable, So No More Slowdown and Outages

Sisu is currently used by 90,000 students and employees across six universities. These include Finland’s largest university—the University of Helsinki—and Tampere University (TUNI), LUT University, and Aalto University. The seventh university in the collective that owns Funidata is scheduled to migrate in 2023.

Students, teachers, and staff use Sisu for administrative tasks such as managing coursework, submitting marks for exams, tracking student fees and funding, and determining which students are awarded degrees. The previous systems suffered from outages and slow performance when many users accessed them at once.

Built on AWS, Sisu provides an efficient and reliable way to perform these key services. During busy times, Funidata can now quickly provision additional compute resources to meet high demand, using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure and resizable compute capacity. This means the system is always responsive and users can carry out tasks quickly. 

Sisu also makes the course registration process continuous so there isn’t a single moment when all courses go online and everyone has to register at once. This reduces the frequency of those rush times when the previous systems used to suffer disruption.

New Ways of Working Help Students Complete Degrees on Time

Switching to Sisu encourages universities to adopt new ways of working, too. “Sisu doesn’t simply replace the old, static student registries,” says Toni Sallanmaa, chief technology officer (CTO) at Funidata. “It encourages the development of new processes to increase universities’ administrative efficiency.”

Finnish students can now easily plan their course loads for the years ahead and make changes along the way. They can constantly monitor progress toward a degree, and can always access up-to-date information about any new requirements and view their latest marks. This improves their university experience and has increased the number of students completing degrees in the required time.

Keeping Student Data Secure and Compliant on AWS

For universities to adopt Sisu, they had to feel confident that student data would be secure in the cloud. Funidata says that using AWS gave the universities peace of mind to migrate. “AWS has a good reputation for security,” says Sallanmaa. “By following its best practice, student data remains safe.”

To maintain high security standards, Funidata performs regular audits of internal systems and stays on top of software updates. For data protection, Funidata uses AWS Regions and Availability Zones to comply with data protection regulations by making sure student data remains inside the EU. Centralizing and standardizing administrative data in Sisu also makes it easier for universities to meet requirements to share university information with the Finnish government.

Universities Make Data-Driven Decisions

With their data in Sisu, universities can make smarter decisions about resources. “Sisu provides universities with more information about student needs than they had before,” says Mari Riihiaho, chief product officer (CPO) at Funidata. “They can optimize their resources and make data-driven decisions, delivering a better experience to students and staff.”

Because students plan courses in advance, universities have up-to-date information on student needs that allows them to adjust teaching staff schedules and course offerings based on real demand.

They can also easily combine data in Sisu with HR or financial data to generate insights about issues such as student health and course progress. Universities can now quickly determine which students are performing as expected and which might require extra help. They can also track student course loads to ensure they have sufficient credits to qualify for state funding and can continue their studies.

Putting the Dev Back into DevOps

Funidata wanted to automate internal IT processes so its technical team could focus on high-level infrastructure tasks. “We’ve automated workflows so now I don’t have to respond to an email every time a team member wants to do something,” says Sallanmaa.

The DevOps team has been freed from manual tasks, too. This means three people have been able to manage infrastructure, even as Funidata has grown from supporting one university to six. The team also has time to develop new features to increase reliability and has reduced downtime for scheduled maintenance.

Using AWS, the team can proactively monitor network activity through comprehensive logging, and respond to issues before they become emergencies. “We can now do more of the dev part of DevOps,” says Sallanmaa. “We can improve our platform instead of firefighting.”

Candidates Eager to Use AWS to Help Funidata Grow

Funidata finds recruitment easy. “Our potential recruits love AWS,” says Sallanmaa. “We find that they’re excited to build their AWS skills—or eager to use their knowledge if they’re already familiar with AWS.”

Funidata plans to use those skills to further improve Sisu. As part of its constant development, it’s currently working on building a new data analysis tool that will help universities to base more of their decisions on data.

The company has ambitions to offer its solution to other universities and higher-education institutions. Funidata has a scalable infrastructure that can accommodate this growth. “Using AWS, we’re more innovative, and we can provide greater availability and robustness for Sisu without increasing costs,” says Sallanmaa. “All of this will continue, even as we grow.”

About Company Name

Funidata provides cloud-based solutions that improve student and staff experience at institutions of higher education. Owned by seven Finnish universities, Funidata created a student information system called Sisu.

Benefits of AWS

  • Improves reliability for better registration experience
  • Increases innovation and efficiency of IT teams
  • Secures student data and helps compliance with regulations
  • Supports data-driven decisions for universities

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL has become the preferred open source relational database for many enterprise developers and start-ups, powering leading business and mobile applications. 

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Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)

Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) is an easy-to-use, scalable, high-performance block-storage service designed for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

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