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COMP20032: Distributed Computing (2009-2010)

This is an archived syllabus from 2009-2010

Distributed Computing
Level: 2
Credit rating: 10
Pre-requisites: COMP10052 and COMP10092 (COMP20051 desirable)
Co-requisites: No Co-requisites
Duration: 11 weeks in second semester
Lectures: 22 in total, 2 per week
Labs: 10 hours in total, 5 2-hour sessions
Lecturers: Chris Kirkham, Rizos Sakellariou
Course lecturers: Chris Kirkham

Rizos Sakellariou

Additional staff: view all staff
Sem 2 w19-26,30-33 Lecture 1.1 Tue 14:00 - 15:00 -
Sem 2 w19-26,30-33 Lecture 1.1 Mon 16:00 - 17:00 -
Sem 2 w20,22,24,26,31,33 Lab G23 Thu 11:00 - 13:00 F
Sem 2 w20,22,24,26,31,33 Lab G23 Fri 13:00 - 15:00 I
Assessment Breakdown
Exam: 80%
Coursework: 0%
Lab: 20%
Degrees for which this unit is optional
  • Artificial Intelligence BSc (Hons)


Many of the most important and visible uses of computer technology rely on distributed computing. This course unit aims to build on the course unit in the first year (COMP10052) which introduced students to the principles of distributed computing, and it focuses on techniques and methods in sufficient breadth and depth to provide a foundation for the exploration of specific topics in more advanced course units. The course unit assumes that students have already a solid understanding of the main principles of computing within a single machine, have a rudimentary understanding of the issues related to machine communication and networking, and have been introduced to the area of distributed computing.

Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, a student should:

Have knowledge and understanding of the main principles, techniques and methods involved when dealing with distributed systems.
Have detailed knowledge and understanding of major issues related to the design of a distributed system, such as:
- how to communicate between distributed objects by means of remote invocation
- the absence of global physical time in distributed systems
- how processes can coordinate their actions in a distributed setting distributed transactions.
Have the ability to design and implement prototypical distributed computing applications using different technologies.
Be aware how the fundamental techniques above are applied in practical systems.

Assessment of Learning outcomes

1) and 2) assessed by examination. 3) assessed via laboratory exercises. 4) not formally assessed unless used to illustrate answers to examination questions.

Contribution to Programme Learning Outcomes

A3, C1, C5 strongly. A2, B1, B2, B3 moderately. D1, D4, D5 slightly.



Revision of the characteristics of distributed systems. Challenges. Architectural models.

Remote Invocation and Distributed Objects

Java RMI, CORBA, Web Services.

Message-Oriented middleware

Synchronous vs asynchronous messaging. Point-to-point messaging. Publish-subscribe.

Concurrency, co-ordination and distributed transactions

Ordering of events. Two-phase commit protocol. Consensus.

Caching and Replication


Service-Oriented Architectures, REST and Web Services

Reading List

Core Text
Title: Distributed systems (3rd edition)
Author: van Steen, Maarten and Andrew S. Tanenbaum
ISBN: 9781543057386
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Edition: 3rd
Year: 2017

Core Text
Title: Distributed systems: concepts and design (5th edition)
Author: Coulouris, George et al.
ISBN: 9780273760597
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Edition: 5th
Year: 2011