Class Location: MUDD 233

Time : Monday Wednesday 2:40am - 3:55pm

Credits: 3 units

Instructor: Roxana Geambasu

Office Hours: Monday 4:00-5:00pm

Office: 461 Computer Science Building

Class Discussion: Piazza

TA: Mathias Lecuyer

Office Hours: Wed and Fri, 9-10am

TA Location: CEPSER 6LW5

TA: Vaggelis Atlidakis

Office Hours: Tue, 5-6pm

TA Location: Mudd 490


Course Overview

Distributed systems help programmers aggregate the resources of many networked computers to construct highly available and scalable services. This class teaches the abstractions, design and implementation techniques that enable the building of fast, scalable, fault-tolerant distributed systems. Topics include multithreading, network programming, consistency, fault tolerance, consensus, security, and several case studies of distributed systems.


  1. COMS W3137 Data Structures and Algorithms
  2. COMS W3157 Advanced Programming (or good working knowledge of C and C++)
  3. COMS W3827 Fundamentals of Computer Systems.
  4. W4118 Operating Systems is not required, but it is a big plus for your homework assignments.

The other requirement is that students be able to send and receive email, access, access the class web page, and download and print pdf files from the class web page.

You need to get get a CS account for access to the CLIC machines, because we will grade all your programming assignments on these machines.


The grading formula is:

  • 65%: Homework (in total, 55% for programming parts plus 10% for written parts)
  • 20%: Exams (final for sure, probably a midterm, too)
  • 15%: Class participation (ask/answer questions)

Please see our policies regarding late submission, re-grading assignments, and collaboration rules.

Textbooks and Resources

Required textbook:

  • Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms, Andrew Tanenbaum and Maarten van Steen, Prentice Hall. (Second edition recommended for easy mapping with chapter numbers.)

Optional textbooks and other resources:

  • Principles of Computer System Design. Jerome Saltzer and M. Frans Kaashoek, Morgan Kaufmann
  • Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment. W. Richard Stevens The C++ Programming Language. Bjarne Stroustrup. Addison Wesley
  • Google C++ Coding Style Guide
  • UNIX Network Programming. Volume 1: Networking APIs: Sockets and XTI. W. Richard Stevens.


This course builds upon several existing distributed systems courses from other universities:

We leverage different aspects from the above courses. For example, we use a subset of MIT’s lab assignments, the lecture schedule, notes, and presentations from the MIT, CMU, and NYU courses, and much of NYU’s web page structure.