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CSC3121 : Distributed Systems

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Paul Ezhilchelvan
  • Owning School: Computing
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To explain how concepts and techniques from computer networking, operating systems, and object-oriented programming can be combined to develop distributed systems. The course will cover the underlying theory of event ordering, logical and physical clocks, and then the practical aspects of distributed system structuring using the client-server approach.

Outline Of Syllabus

Structuring distributed applications: using client-server and remote procedure calls; also how atomic transactions, with their \'ACID\' properties provide a reliable way of sharing of information; design challenges in remote procedure calls and in realizing ACID properties; the solutions commonly deployed to address these challenges, together with their conceptual underpinnings.
Ordering of events: using logical and physical clocks.
Practical aspects: analysing a distributed system design and designing a total order delivery system.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials101:0010:00Recorded lectures (10)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00In person lecturing
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion141:0014:0014 hours preparation on assessment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00PiP guidance on assessments
Structured Guided LearningStructured non-synchronous discussion81:008:00Support for assessment and deep learning
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:00Guidance through structured discussions
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Techniques and theory are presented in lectures. Assessments seek to provide students with the experience of applying concepts and algorithms in solving challenging design problems. Experiences from interacting with middleware and graph DB companies would be used to show how taught concepts are applied in practice, e.g., in distributed ledger (aka blockchain) and database systems.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A60Closed book examination
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises1M40Investigating and criticising a given system design for application scenarios 800 words (max)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessments are designed to test the students' knowledge as well as understanding of the concepts and techniques that underpin the organisation of distributed computing.
Coursework will particularly emphasise the importance of causal order related issues in the design of distributed systems and crash-tolerance in client-server systems. For example, it will describe an application scenario and require the student to reason why the system design is flawed.

If a closed book examination is not feasible to hold, there will be a Problem Solving Exercise 2 to assess the student’s ability to apply concepts in building vital distributed services - 1200 words (max).

N.B. This module has both “Exam Assessment” and “Other Assessment” (e.g. coursework). If the total mark for either assessment falls below 35%, the maximum mark returned for the module will normally be 35%.

Reading Lists