Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer

COMP20092: System Architecture (2009-2010)

This is an archived syllabus from 2009-2010

System Architecture
Level: 2
Credit rating: 10
Pre-requisites: COMP20051 and COMP10031
Co-requisites: No Co-requisites
Lecturers: Alasdair Rawsthorne, Ian Watson
Course lecturers: Alasdair Rawsthorne

Ian Watson

Additional staff: view all staff
Sem 2 w19-26,30-33 Lecture 1.4 Wed 09:00 - 10:00 -
Sem 2 w19-26,30-33 Lecture 1.5 Mon 12:00 - 13:00 -
Sem 2 w20,22,24,26,31,33 Lab G23 Tue 11:00 - 13:00 I
Sem 2 w20,22,24,26,31,33 Lab UNIX Thu 11:00 - 13:00 G
Assessment Breakdown
Exam: 80%
Coursework: 0%
Lab: 20%
Degrees for which this unit is optional
  • Artificial Intelligence BSc (Hons)


The basic architecture of computer systems has been covered in first year course units which detailed both the instruction set architecture and the micro-architecture (hardware structure) of simple processors. Although these principle underlie the vast majority of modern computers, there are a wide range of both hardware and software techniques which are employed to increase the performance, reliability and flexibility of systems.


The aims of this course are to introduce the most important system architecture approaches. To give a wider understanding of how real systems operate and, from that understanding, the ability to optimise their use.

Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, a student should:

? Have knowledge and understanding of techniques which are employed in modern processors to increase their performance, reliability and flexibility.
? Have detailed knowledge and understanding of the following architectural principles
o Caching
o Pipelining
o Multi-Threading & Multi-Core
o File System Support (RAID)
o Virtual Machines
? Have the ability to model architectural principles via simulation

Assessment of Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes will be assessed by a combination of examination and practical laboratory work.

Contribution to Programme Learning Outcomes

A3, B1 fully. B2,B3,C6 partially.



The motivation behind advanced architectural techniques.


The need to overcome latency. Caching as a principle, examples of caching in practice. Processor cache structure and operation.


Principles of pipelining. Implementation of a processor pipeline and its properties. Pipelining requirements and limitations. Additional support for pipelining.


Basic multi-threading principles. Processor support for multi-threading. Simultaneous multi-threading.


Motivation for multi-core. Possible multi-core structures. Cache coherence.

File System Support

Implementation of file systems. RAID

Virtual Machines

Motivation for Virtual Machines. Language Virtual Machines. System Virtual Machines. Virtual Machine implementation. Binary Translation

Reading List

Supplementary Text
Title: Computer organization and design: the hardware/software interface (5th edition)
Author: Patterson, David A. and John L. Hennessy
ISBN: 9780124077263
Publisher: Elsevier
Edition: 5th
Year: 2014

Supplementary Text
Title: Virtual machines: versatile platforms for systems and processes
Author: Smith, Jim and Ravi Nair
ISBN: 9781558609105
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann
Year: 2005