CS395t Web Operating Systems

TimeMW 4-5:30
PlaceGAR 201
InstructorMike Dahlin (dahlin@cs.utexas.edu)
Office ACES 6.248
TA: Arunkumar Venkataramani (arun@cs.utexas.edu)
Web pagehttp://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/dahlin/Classes/WebOS


This course has two goals. First, as a group, we should define a research agenda in "web operating systems." Second, as individuals, this course should equip you to do "state of the art" experimental research on topics relating to large-scale distributed systems.

The core of the class will be discussions of a set of papers. We don't have time to cover all of the interesting papers (or even topics) relating to wide area system infrastructure. This semester, we will cover the following topics:

For each of these topics, you will be expected to read and critique one hard-core technical paper per lecture and to actively participate in the class discussion. In addition, we will provide several background reading papers that we recommend you at least skim.

Each student will be part of a team that will lead the discussion for between 3 and 5 of the papers. Discussion leaders will be expected to read some extra papers and spend considerable time preparing for and reflecting on class discussions.

In addition, there will be a few homework projects to learn skills important for large-scale distributed systems experiments.

Finally, we will read a number of papers addressing the general topic of experimental systems research.


This class is larger than I would like for a discussion-based class. I believe we can overcome this hurdle if everyone comes to class well prepared to participate in (or lead) discussions. If you skim papers and space out during discussion, you are doing your colleagues a disservice by lowering the level of discussion. (The other problem, of course, is that individually you will learn much less if you follow that approach.)

Grading, therefore, is focused on creating an atmosphere where everyone comes to class well prepared for discussion.
30% Paper critiques
30% Discussion leading
20% Class participation
20% Written homeworks

Paper critiques. We will read about 28 "core technical" papers in class (plus a number of "background" and "professional development" papers.) For each of the core technical papers, you will prepare a (approximately) 1-page written critique here is a template. This critique must be typeset (no handwritten critiques will be accepted) and must be turned in before the start of the class that discusses the paper. You may skip up to 5 critiques with no grading penalty. Details of what we expect in a critique will be covered in a handout.

The homework summaries should reflect your understanding of the paper. It is not acceptable to turn in a summary if you have not made an honest effort to read the paper. If you don't have time to read a paper before a class, make use of one of your skip credits.

Discussion leading. We will divide the class into 3-4 teams that will rotate leading discussions. Each team will be expected to read extra papers, design a plan for the class discussion, lead the class discussion, and prepare a written summary of the class's insights on the topics we discuss. Grading will be a combination of (1) the instructor and TA's assessment of the effectiveness of the discussion and (2) peer reviews (how the members of the group rate the other members' contribution.)

Class participation. The class will provide ample opportunity to get involved in the discussions, and if you do not regularly participate in discussions, you will not get as much out of the class as you could. Your class participation will be based on two factors: (1) the TA and instructor's assessment of whether you were regularly involved in the discussions over the course of the semester (2) there will be several pop quizzes on the reading assignments over the course of the semester. If you turn in a critique (e.g., claim to have read and understood the paper) but your quiz indicates that you don't understand the paper, we will lower your class participation grade. (Note that if you don't turn in a critique for a class, you are "exempt" from taking a quiz for that class.)

Written homeworks. There will be about three written homeworks that cover basic experimental skills useful for studying WAN systems (cache simulation, network simulation, and simple statistics and data analysis). The homeworks will be done individually.


I strongly encourage you to discuss the papers and the homeworks with anyone you can. That's the way good science hapens. As a professional, you should acknowledge significant contributions or collaborations in your written or spoken presentations.

The paper critiques should reflect your understanding of the paper. It is not acceptable to turn in a summary if you have not made an honest effort to read the paper. If you don't have time to read a paper before a class, make use of one of your skip credits. Never read another student's summary before you have turned in your own.

The homeworks must be done individually. You may orally discuss the homeworks with anyone, but you may not look at anyone else's code and you may not allow anyone else to look at your code.