CS 675 - Distributed Systems
Fall 2012
Innovation Hall 136
Friday 1:30 - 4:15 pm

Dr. Songqing Chen
sqchen at cs dot gmu dot edu


This course focuses on basic concepts underlying the design, implementation, and management of distributed systems. It covers fundamental topics in distributed systems, including but not limited to distributed system architectures, inter-process communication, distributed middleware, synchronization and coordination,  distributed agreement, concurrency control, replication, and fault tolerance.


CS 571 (Operating Systems).  NOTE: Prerequisites will be enforced strictly.


The textbook for this class is  Andrew Tannenbaum and Maarten van Steen, ``Distributed Systems: Paradigms and Principles'', Prentice-Hall, 2nd edition, 2007.  Additionally, the following books may be used as reference texts.

  1.  G. Coulouris, J. Dollimore, T. Kindberg, “Distributed Systems: Concepts and Design,” 5th Edition, Addison-Wesley, 2012.
  2.   K. Birman, "Reliable Distributed Systems: Technologies, Web Services and Applications,"  Springer Verlag, 2009.

Course Outline

The following topics will be covered (not necessarily in the order below)
  1. Introduction
  2. Distributed System Architectures
  3. Communication in Distributed Systems
  4. Distributed Middleware
  5. Client/Server Design Issues
  6. Virtualization & Code Migration
  7. Naming
  8. Distributed Synchronization & Coordination
  9. Consistency & Replication in Distributed Systems
  10. Fault Tolerance
  11. P2P Systems
  12. Cloud Computing


There will be two programming projects. The first will involve the development of a distributed application using various middleware technologies, CORBA/RMI, etc.  The second project will involve using the advanced concepts studied in this course to extend the application developed in the first project (for example, for creating a fault tolerant version of the application). The software required for these projects is available on the computers in the IT&E Lab.

In addition, there will be two to four homework assignments.

50% of the course grade will be based on these programming projects and homework assignments. In addition, there will be a mid-term exam worth 20% of the grade. The final exam will account for the remaining 30% of the grade.

No credit if your project does not compile. Late assignments/projects lose 20% credit and will not be accepted 3 days after due, unless under prearranged conditions.

No early exams will be given. Missed/make-up exams are strongly discouraged and must be arranged with the instructor BEFORE the exam date with an official and verifiable excuse.

Exam Schedule

Mid-term: mid to late October (date to be announced later)   Final exam:  Friday, Dec 14 (1:30 - 4:15 pm)

Academic Integrity

You are expected to abide by the University's honor code and the CS Department's Honor Code and Academic Integrity Policies during the semester, i.e., collaboration between students in different groups on an assignment is unacceptable. Any violation of the honor code will result in referral to the honor council with a recommendation that the student be awarded an F for the class.

NOTE: I will be using MOSS to detect plagiarism in the programming assignments.

Office Hours

Office hours will be on Fridays 4:30 - 5:30 pm in my office (Room 5319, Engineering Building), or by appointment.

Class Home Page

All handouts and other course material will be available at course homepage.