COMP10052: Fundamentals of Distributed Systems (2008-2009)
Distributed systems take many forms, and many of the best known and most widely used computer systems are as prevalent as they are because of their distributed nature. This course unit introduces some of the essential concepts underlying distributed systems.
Students are guided into an exploration of exemplar distributed applications (such as the web, email, internet telephony and multi-user gaming ) and, through these exemplars, are introduced to the basic concepts that underpin modern distributed computing.
Recurring themes will include how distributed systems offer transparencies of various kinds and how they must contend with a range of complex issues to achieve that.
This course unit aims to provide students with a basic understanding of distributed computing, drawing on their general experience as users of distributed applications to inform the discovery, description and classification of fundamental concepts in distributed systems.
This course unit builds on the knowledge gained by the students in the COMP10900: First Year Team Project course unit and aims to equip them better to benefit the most from more technically-demanding course units in second and third years (in particular, the course units on Computer Networks, Distributed Computing and Mobile Systems).
After a brief introduction that contrasts the distributed view of computing with the centralized one presented in other course units, the course unit progresses by studying a few exemplar distributed applications, one by one. Each exemplar application is chosen with a view to illustrating issues and challenges arising in distributed systems.
After each dissection of an exemplar application, time is taken to make explicit, in a more systematic way, some of the basic principles involved, how tools and techniques have been developed that enforce those principles, and how these tools and techniques both give rise and presuppose the distributed computing infrastructures that pervade
On successful completion of this course, a student will:
1. Understand the contrasting features between the distributed view of computing with the centralized one.
2. Understand in detail how a few exemplar distributed applications work:
what requirements they aim to satisfy
what issues and challenges they must contend with
what architecture they exhibit
what techniques and infrastructures they are built upon
3. Acquire practical skills in analysing distributed applications
4. Acquire practical skills in discovering, describing and classifying some of the fundamental concepts in distributed systems
Assessment of Learning outcomesLearning outcomes (1)-(4) are assessed by examination.
Learning outcomes (3) and (4) are also assessed in the laboratory.
Contribution to Programme Learning OutcomesA2, B3
Introduction to Distributed Systems 
Exemplars (1): Web and Email
General Lessons 
Exemplars (2): Internet Telephony
General Lessons 
Exemplars (3): Multi-User Gaming
General Lessons 
Distributed Systems Beyond the Internet
Inherently-Distributed Applications 
DC for Higher Turnaround  (Parallelism, High-Performance Computing, Cluster-Based Scheme)
DC for Reliability/Availability  (Peer-to-Peer Schemes)
DC so that Whole > Sum(Parts)  (Web Service Composition, Workflows)
Conclusion: A Look Into the Future 
There are no books that cover the syllabus exactly. Readings will be assigned in lectures as the course unit progresses.