EECS-396/496 Distributed Systems in Challenging Environments, Winter 2018

Announcements

Remember to check this regularly!

  • The list of (18) papers we will discuss is posted in the calendar

Administrative Information

Professor

Fabián E. Bustamante
Technological Institute, L465
+1 847 491-2745
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Location and Time

Lectures: Mondays and Wednesdays 11:00-12:20PM
TBD.

Professor Office Hours: by appointment

Course Description

This seminar will review cool ideas and ongoing projects that are pushing distributed systems into new and challenging domains. The class will be structured as a traditional seminar with readings, class discussion and a quarter-long research project.

In compliance with Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Northwestern University is committed to providing equal access to all programming. Students with disabilities seeking accommodations are encouraged to contact the office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at +1 847 467-5530 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . SSD is located in the basement of Scott Hall. Additionally, I am available to discuss disability-related needs during office hours or by appointment.

Course Prerequisites

  • Please contact me if you would like to take this course.

Communication Channels

There are a number of communication channels set up for this class:

  • We will use the course web site to post announcements related to the course. You should check this regularly for schedule changes, clarifications and corrections to assignments, and other course-related announcements.
  • We will use Piazza for class discussion. The system is highly catered to getting you help fast and efficiently from classmates, the TA, and myself. Rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff, I encourage you to post your questions on our Piazza for DSCE.
  • There is always email for questions that would be inappropriate to post on the newsgroup/discussion-board. When using email to contact the staff please start your subject line with "DSCE: helpful-comment" to ensure a prompt response.

Course Organization

The course is organized as a series of paper discussions and a single term-long project.

Most class meetings will be centered around a paper presentation and discussion. You should read each paper before coming to class and be prepared to discuss it.

I will post a question in Piazza about each paper 24hr before class. Your answer need only be long enough to demonstrate that you understand the paper; a paragraph or two should be enough. I will check your answers to make sure they make sense and they will count for part of the paper discussion grade. Please make sure to post your answers as private!

The class will run as mini-conference with you as the Program Committee member. We will use the papers included in the schedule as our set of submissions. Each of you will write reviews for 3-4 of them. We will discuss the papers in a two-part PC meeting (around midterm and the end of the quarter) to decide what paper "should be accepted" for publication.

Grading

I use a criterion-referenced method to assign your grade; in other words, your grade will be based on how well you do relative to predetermined performance levels, instead of in comparison with the rest of the class. Thus, if a test has 100 possible points, anyone with a score of 90 or greater will get an A, those with scores of 80 or greater will get a B, those with scores of 70 or greater will get a C, and so on. Notice that this means that if everyone works hard and gets >90, everyone gets an A.

Total scores (between 0 and 100) will be determined, roughly, as follows:

  • Paper discussion participation (and questions) 15%
  • Paper review and PC meeting participation 25%
  • Paper presentation 20%
  • Project 40%

(Every meeting has assigned either a single long paper or two short ones)

Week Date Topic
1 01/08 Introduction
Slides [pdf]
01/10
2 01/15 Marthin Luther King Jr.
01/17
2 01/22
01/24
2 01/29 First Project Presentations
01/31
2 02/05
02/07
2 02/12 First PC meeting
02/14
2 02/19
02/21
2 02/26
02/28
2 03/05
03/07
2 03/12
03/14 Second and last PC meeting
* 03/20 Finals Week - Project Presentation

Assignments

Reading Papers and Answering Questions

We will be reading two or more papers per week. The papers will be first presented to the group by one or more students and then discussed in a round-table manner.

To ensure lively discussions, you will be responsible for reading the assigned papers before each class. I will post a question about each paper 24hr before class. Your answer need only be long enough to demonstrate that you understand the paper; a paragraph or two should be enough. I will check your answers to make sure they make sense and they will count for part of the paper discussion grade.

You may find the following documents useful:

Writing reviews

At one time or another, every researcher is asked to review papers submitted for publication at a conference or journal; a process known as peer review. This quarter we will work on this skill by running a mini-conference - DSCE 2018 (Access is restricted to Northwestern).

All class members will be part of the "Programm Committee" for our mini-conference and we will consider all papers listed in our schedule as our submissions.

Each paper will receive three reviews and each PC member will be responsible for writing 3-4 reviews (you are welcome to write additional reviews). We will discuss all papers in a two-part PC meeting (around midterm and during final weeks) to decide what paper "should be accepted" for publication. Each paper discussion will be led by one of the reviewers (assigned by the PC chair).

You may find the following documents useful:

To enter your reviews go to DSCE 2018 (Access is restricted to Northwestern).

Presenting Papers

Most class meetings will be centered around a paper presentation and discussion. Each student will be responsible for presenting one of the papers in the schedule (so, if you haven't yet, please email me three ranked options).

Giving a good presentation is hard work. Please make sure to allocate enough time to prepare for yours. There are some good pointers around that you may want to look at.

Here is an incomplete list of dos and don'ts:

  • Don't try to present the whole work; remember the talk is just a taster.
  • Think of your primary audience to decide what/what not to expand on.
  • Use examples to motivate the work and approach, and illustrate the key points.
  • Don't put too much on a slide - prune and then prune again.
  • Don't put too much on a slide - just one figure/graph per slide!
  • Don't put too much on a slide - don't waste the header/slide title!
  • Careful with use of animation - not for show, just for clarity
  • Please put numbers in your slides
  • Seriously consider dropping the typical "overview/roadmap" slide
  • Saying enough without saying too much - enough depth to convey your ideas, not so much as to overwhelm your audience

Projects

There will be one single project on which you will work throughout the quarter - this is a critical component of the course. Your goal is to design, construct and evaluate an interesting distributed system - the crazier the better.

Projects must be written up in a term paper (due during finals week) and teams will present their results at the end of the course in a systems class mini-conference. Projects ideas will be suggested by the instructor, but you are strongly encouraged to come up with your own ideas. Based on the topic of your project, you will be assigned a project leader to help you through the quarter (you will meet weekly with them).

This is the schedule of meetings and deliverables (this is mainly to ensure steady progress):

  • Form a group. Jan 8-12
  • Project meeting with instructor. Jan 15-19
  • Project initial presentation (you should read the CSP project startup or look at the Questions that any project proposal should answer -- the Heilmeier "Catechism"). The presentation should be 4 slides long, including (1) Project name and team members, (2) What are the research contributions of the project? List of new/interesting concepts to be investigated, (3) Why do we care if you are successful?, and (4) Project milestones and schedule for the rest of the quarter.
    Jan 29
  • Midterm report. The report should include (1) Project name and team members, (2) Revised statement of project goals and list of new/interesting concepts to be investigated, (3) List of issues addressed and pending, and (4) Updated project milestones, highlighting accomplishments to date, and schedule for the rest of the quarter.
    February 19
  • Project meeting with instructor. Week of March 12.
  • Final presentation. Scheduled final day, March 20-24.
  • Final report due. During finals week.

The final report has to conform to the format used by the Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks or the Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems. Reports should be no longer than 6 pages (you can use appendices or a webpage to document details). The following structure is suggested:

  • Abstract: What did you do, why is important and what are your high-level results?
  • Problem statement: What is the problem you tried to solve?
  • Prior work: How others have addressed the problem before and why that was not enough?
  • Research approach: What was your approach to solving the problem? What did you design, build? What was your experimental methodology?
  • Results: What were your results? How did you evaluate your work? What were your figures of merit?
  • Lessons learned and future work: If you knew what you know now, what would you do differently? What questions are left for future work?
  • Summary and conclusions.

Materials

Required

  • A set of research papers I will make available (see the schedule page for a full list).

Very Useful