CPSC 416, Winter 2016
Mon/Wed/Fri 2-3:00PM, HDP 301, UBC course page
Office hours: Ivan....... Mon 3:30-4:30 (ICICS 327) Lynsey.. Thu 1:00-2:00 (ICCSX 139) Patrick... Fri 3:00-4:00 (ICCSX 141)
This course has completed. You may be looking for CPSC 416 2016 W2
Leslie Lamport, a computer scientist who won the 2013 ACM Turing Award, gave the following definition of a distributed system:
Yet, distribution provides numerous benefits. A system becomes more fault tolerant if there are fewer points of failure and it has no centralized components. By extending the system with more physical nodes the system gains performance and becomes more scalable, capable of handling more load. Distribution can also improve latency, by improving geographic diversity, by placing resources closer to clients who use the system.
Achieving these benefits is not easy. As the quote above illustrates, distributed systems can fail in complex ways and these systems are more difficult to build, test, and understand than centralized systems.
This course will introduce you to a broad range of topics in distributed systems. The tentative topics are listed in the schedule below. For the most part this will be a lecture-style course. However, distributed system concepts are notoriously challenging to internalize without first-hand experience. The emphasis of this course, therefore, will be on building distributed system prototypes, small and large. In the first half of the term you will do this through smaller assignments. In the second half of the term the assignment will be replaced with a (mostly) open-ended project.
Course pre-requisites: CPSC 317 (networks) and CPSC 313
(computer hardware and operating systems).
Go programming language
In this course we will exclusively use the Go programming language for all assignments and the project. Learning a new programming language is an important skill. You will practice it in this course. We will spend some time at the beginning of the course covering the basics of Go. However, I will expect that you learn this language mostly on your own.
There are three optional books for this course:
Use the course Piazza for all course-related communication. The Piazza also supports private posts that you can use to communicate with the instructor and the TAs. Use email for private issues related to the course.
Course-level learning goals
The course will provide an opportunity for participants to
Schedule (a work in progress)
Go is a systems language designed at Google. It is especially well suited to building distributed systems. Like with any language, the fastest way to become proficient at Go is to put in the time writing programs in Go. Here are some resources to get you started:
There are four assignments. All assignments must be completed in Go and work with version 1.4.3 (which is installed on ugrad machines). You must work independently on assignments 1 and 2 and each student must submit their own solution source code. For assignments 3 and 4 you will work in teams of two. See collaboration guidelines at the bottom of this page for more information.
Solution must be submitted using the stash server by 9PM of the day of the deadline. Special instructions for compiling/running the code should be included as a README.txt file.
For assignments 3 and 4 you will need to find a partner and sign up for a stash repository here.
To access the hand-in git repository for assignment X as student with undergrad userid UID, run the following command:
git clone https://stash.ugrad.cs.ubc.ca:8443/git/CS416_2015W2_NONE/assignmentX_UID.git
Add your solution (and don't forget to push!) to the repository by the deadline.
Assignments will be primarily marked based on functionality. Partial marks will be given to assignments that partially fulfill the specifications. It is in your best interest to properly comment and document your code to receive appropriate partial credit. All solutions must be formatted using gofmt (20% penalty to the mark for those that are not properly formatted).
Assignment deadlines are listed in the schedule above and below. Assignment descriptions will be linked to from this page once they are available.
The project must address a non-trivial problem relevant to distributed systems. The project must include a substantial software effort in Go and must be done in a team of 4 students. Note that 'substantial' includes complexity and not just code size. The most direct way to satisfy the project requirement is to prototype a distributed system. Such a system can be built from scratch, but the project can also be formulated as a non-trivial extension to an existing system. The idea behind the system does not need to be original, but the majority of the distributed logic in the implemented system must be implemented by the project team.
A list of posted project ideas (evolving).
Sign up for a project stash repository here.
Project constraints (evolving):
The project is structured as a series of regularly occurring deadlines, listed in the schedule above and below. Do not miss these! The deadline deliverable must be submitted through stash by 9PM of the day of the deadline.
To practice for the exam we will go over 1-3 questions at the start of each class. You can also download the complete set of practice questions we have covered thus far (updated continuously).
Final exam will be on April 14th, at 12:00 PM, in IBLC 182.
Final course mark will be based off of:
Note that A3, A4, and the project must be team efforts. The team's mark for these deliverables is the same for all team members.
The deadline for any assignment can be extended by one day with a 20% penalty to the mark. Assignments will not be accepted 24 hours past the original deadline.
Deadlines for project deliverables are strict (more fault tolerance in a group of four).
If you have an emergency (e.g., health) that prevents you from meeting a deadline. You must notify the instructor before the deadline.
How to do well in this course
Learn Go early and practice it regularly. Learning a new language while being time constrained is stressful and not fun. Since the assignments rapidly increase in their difficulty, it will be to your advantage to learn Go as quickly as possible and to learn it well. The posted Go resources are a great starting point, but reading is no substitute for practice, bug, debug, practice, practice, bug, coffee, debug, practice, ...
Do not skimp on software engineering. Distributed systems are hard. They are hard to understand, to build, to debug, to run, to trace, to document, etc. Do not make your life any more difficult. Use best practices from software engineering to help you in this course. Write unit and integration tests, use version control, document your code with comments, write small prototypes, refactor your code, make your code readable and easy to run and debug. If you fail to follow best practices, they will come back to bite you later on. Unfortunately, this course will not explicitly teach you these best practices, but you probably took a course that introduced you to these concepts. If you have any questions, just ask us on Piazza.
Choose your teammates, wisely. Project success depends critically on your ability to work effectively within a team of four. Assignments 3 and 4 require a team of two: this is your chance to meet some folks and see if you would want them on your project team. You are responsible for resolving personal and technical differences among teammates on your own. Let us know as early as possible if you have team concerns, before they turn into crises.
Invest time into the project. The project forms the majority of the mark for the course. That is, it is important to me that you do a good job on it. However, you can only do a good job on the project if you allocate the time (particularly as you will need to learn and practice Go along the way!). Schedule your work; put in consistent and weekly effort into the project.
Key project deliverables are write-ups; do these extra well. The proposal write-up alone is 15% of your final mark! The proposal and the final report must clearly convey the high-level ideas, be technically thorough, and must be well-written. Quality technical writing takes time and care. Use well-established methods to improve your writing: draft increasingly detailed outlines, get feedback from your peers/course staff on early ideas and drafts, compose descriptive infographics/diagrams, use the spellchecker, etc. Proposal write-ups that are vague or are incomplete will not be accepted (you will have to redo the proposal, but with much less time).
Reach out for success. This is intended to be a challenging fourth year course, but that does not mean that you have to work through it on your own! The course piazza should be your first stop for all technical questions. The course has specific office hours (see top of page), but I and the TAs are flexible. Send any of us an email to schedule a time to discuss the course, the assignments, the project, etc. University students often encounter setbacks from time to time that can impact academic performance. Discuss your situation with us or an academic advisor as early as possible. For help in addressing mental or physical health concerns, including seeing a UBC counselor or doctor, visit this link.
Academic honesty and collaboration guidelines
The department has a detailed policy regarding collaboration and plagiarism. You must familiarize yourself with this policy.
Assignment 1: You must work by yourself. No code sharing is allowed. You can use any code examples that you find on the internet for help, but use these as a starting point and write your own code. If you have consulted a specific resource extensively, then note this in the README file (better be safe than sorry).
Assignment 2: Same as assignment 1.
Assignment 3: You must work in a team of two. Your team will receive a single mark for the assignment. No code sharing between teams is allowed. You can use any code examples that you find on the internet for help, but use these as a starting point and write your own code. If you have consulted a specific resource extensively, then note this in the README file (better be safe than sorry).
Assignment 4: Same as assignment 3, except that you cannot use the same team.
Many of the materials used in this course are derived from CMU's 15-440: Distributed Systems course from Spring 2014, and are used with permission from the content authors.