Tuesdays & Thursdays
15:40 to 17:00 WEB L122
TA Zirak Zaheer
Office Hours Monday 11:00 to 12:30 in MEB 3161
TA Mazhar Naqvi
Office Hours Wednesday 10:30 to 12:00 in MEB 3445
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: CS 5460, CS 4480, or similar systems experience with a heavy programming component.
In the last decade, large-scale distributed systems have revolutionized the way we live and work. They form the basis for our communications platforms. They provide our only means of finding, aggregating, storing, and analyzing the massive data we collect each day. These systems will only need to grow larger, faster, and more reliable as more and more of our lives and devices are online.
Building distributed systems, especially those that operate at large-scale with high performance, presents special challenges. For example, scale introduces faults and the need for redundancy. Redundancy complicates consistency.
This class introduces many of the key aspects of designing and building distributed systems such RPC, naming, routing, replication, consistency, fault tolerance, transactions, and time.
The first half of the class class is driven in large part by lectures often extracted from real systems described in papers from the systems research community. Students are expected to attend lectures and take short comprehension quizzes. Later lectures will fold in current research topics like kernel-bypass networking, RDMA, and highly concurrent storage and transactional systems.
However, the bulk of the work of the class involves a progressive series of labs where students develop and debug a fault-tolerance consensus-replicated key-value store. Students will also complete a final project based on a small set of (about 4) academic papers.
The calendar includes a preliminary list of topics (at the bottom) that will be covered in class.
CS6450 is a special topics class that straddles upper-level undergrad, early grad level with lectures and several programming labs, and a final reading/project.
Most class meetings will be lectures, some will be part paper discussion. You must read all required readings before coming to class and be prepared to discuss them. You can find out what paper to read for each meeting on the calendar. Required readings are marked "REQUIRED"; be prepared to answer quiz questions for REQUIRED readings at the start of that day's class BEFORE the lecture is presented.
See the misconduct policy below for details on collaboration.
3 labs with several sub-steps will be due every few weeks throughout the course. See the misconduct policy below for details on collaboration.
Very short quizzes based on (typically immediately) prior material or the assigned required reading will be given to complete before class or in class at the start of the lecture period. When a particular day on the calendar has a reading marked REQUIRED the pre-lecture quiz may cover content and objectives from the assigned reading.
The two lowest (percentage) scores will be discarded from the final grade. Each quiz will have equal weight, totaling to 33% of the final grade weight. The two scores that are discarded are, in part, intended cover absences, so plan accordingly -- there will be no make up quizzes.
Quizzes are closed-book, closed-notes if they are given in class; quizzes that are to be completed before lecture are open-book, open-note, and the usual collaboration policy applies.
In lieu of a final or exams, students will work in groups of 2 students to read a an academic paper, summarizing their understanding of the paper, drawing their own conclusions, and summarizing what directions the sum of the ideas suggests today. Final reports covering the readings and the project (about 3 pages) are required along with an in-class presentation. The intent is to help acclimatize students to reading about distributed systems, extracting ideas from the literature, and applying the ideas in new ways.
Both students from each group are expected to read the chosen paper, to contribute to the discussion about them, and to contribute to the final report and presentation.
Final course grades will be based on:
You can hand in your lab solutions late with a few conditions:
If you want an exception to these rules, in any way you must get a letter from the appropriate office at the University.
Students who wish to appeal a grade must do so within one week of receiving the grade.
The course has no official textbook, but there are several texts that can be of help:
Students are expected to maintain professional behavior in class according to the University of Utah Student Code, which is available here. Students should read the Code carefully and know what their responsibilities are. According to Faculty Rules and Regulations, it is the faculty responsibility to enforce responsible classroom behavior, beginning with verbal warnings and progressing to dismissal from class and a failing grade. Students have the right to appeal such action to the Student Behavior Committee.
Information on withdrawing from courses, appealing grades, and more, see the College of Engineering Academic Affairs website.
This class is also subject to the School of Computing Guidelines and Policies.
The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in the class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD). CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangements for accommodations.
Collaboration and Cheating
The entire structure and much of the content was blatantly lifted from MIT's 6.824. Special thanks to Robert Morris, Franz Kaashoek, and Nickolai Zeldovich at MIT and Mike Freedman and Kyle Jamieson at Princeton for all of the incredible content on which this course is built.