COMP 420,  COMP 532:

Introduction to Distributed Computer Systems

Fall 2019

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A distributed computer system involves a number of independent computers, which do not share memory, connected by a computer network. These computers communicate with each other by passing messages over the network, generally cooperating with each other, appearing to the users as a single coherent system, for example for sharing computation, storage, or other resources.

This course will examine the concepts, architecture, algorithms, protocols, and implementation of distributed computer systems, focusing on issues such as distribution, scale, robustness in the face of failure, and security. Some of the topics we will cover include communication in distributed systems, clocks and order of events in a distributed system, distributed system fault tolerance, distributed file systems, peer-to-peer systems, and distributed shared memory.

There are two versions of this course: COMP 420, intended for undergraduate students, and COMP 532, intended for graduate students. The lectures for both versions meet together, and the projects and exams for both are the same. However, for students taking the graduate version of the course, COMP 532, there will be an additional requirements as part of each of the projects.


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Course meetings:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 1:00-1:50, TBA

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Reading assignments:

  • The required textbook for the class is Distributed Systems: Concepts and Design, by George Coulouris, Jean Dollimore, Tim Kindberg, and Gordon Blair, Fifth Edition, published by Addison-Wesley/Pearson, 2012. The book is available from many on-line retailers such as and

    Note that we will cover topics in more depth than in the book, and will also cover some in a different order. There will also be a few additional reading assignments, not included in the textbook, during the semester.


  • Dave Johnson, dbj!#,?@$^!), DCH 3007, x3063. Office hours: TBA.