CSCE 438 :: Distributed Data-Intensive Systems :: Spring 2014

Tuesday/Thursday 9:35-10:50am in HRBB 113
Instructor: James Caverlee, HRBB 403
Office Hours: Tues 4-5pm
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Texas A&M University

Cheng Cao, HRBB 408D; Office Hours: Tues/Thurs 4-5pm
Wei Niu, HRBB 408C; Office Hours: Mon/Wed 4-5pm

Course Schedule

Course Summary

Howdy! This course is an introduction to the principles of distributed computing and programming in the context of the emerging data-centric view of computing (popularized by recent discussions of Big Data and Cloud Computing). We will examine four main types of distributed data-intensive systems: (i) peer-to-peer systems, (ii) web-based systems, (iii) cloud computing systems, and (iv) crowd-powered systems (i.e., crowdsourcing). This class will blend both theory and practice, so you will be exposed to compelling foundational topics as well as some very practical (and useful!) languages, toolkits, and frameworks. Welcome aboard!


We're going to use Piazza for all course communication, so you should check it often (as in, every day!). If you've got a homework question, post to Piazza. If you've found a cool link you want to share, post to Piazza! If you're looking for a study partner, post to Piazza!! Basically, Piazza should be your best, first choice for all class-related concerns. We will monitor the group and provide feedback. But everyone is encouraged to contribute.


CSCE 315 or approval of instructor.


There is no official textbook for this course. Instead, we'll rely on a mix of papers, online tutorials, and other resources.


The grading scale is A: 90-100, B: 80-89, C: 70-79, D: 60-69, F: 0-59. The course grading policy is as follows:

Class Participation (10%). Attendance in class and participation in the discussion are both important to your success in the course. We expect you to participate in online discussions on Piazza. Over the course of the semester, you should make at least four substantive, interesting posts to the discussion forum (either initiating a new topic or responding to someone else). These posts should be directly related to the course readings.

Homework (45%). We'll have five homework assignments, each worth 9% of your final grade.

All homework assignments must be submitted by 11:59pm Central time on the due date. For the homework assignments, you may talk to any other class member or work in groups to discuss the problems in a general way. However, your actual detailed solution must be yours alone. If you do talk to other students, you must write on your assignment who it is that you discussed the problems with. Your submitted work must be written solely by you and not contain work directly copied from others.

Homework Collaboration Clarification: To clarify, your homework is yours alone and you are expected to complete each homework independently. Your solution should be written by you without the direct aid or help of anyone else. However, we believe that collaboration and team work are important for facilitating learning, so we encourage you to discuss problems and general problem approaches (but not actual solutions) with your classmates. If you do have a chat with another student about a homework problem, you must inform us by writing a note on your homework submission (e.g., Bob pointed me to the relevant section for problem 3). The basic rule is that no student should explicitly share a solution with another student (and thereby circumvent the basic learning process), but it is okay to share general approaches, directions, and so on. If you feel like you have an issue that needs clarification, feel free to contact either me or the TA.

Homework Plagiarism Policy: We will use the Stanford Moss system to check homework submissions for plagiarism. Students found to have engaged in plagiarism will be punished severely, typically earning an automatic F in the course and being reported to the Aggie Honor System.

Homework Late Days: For the homework assignments, you have a total of 5 late days that you can use during the semester. However, a single assignment can be submitted up to 3 days late only, so we can post solutions in a timely fashion. For the purposes of the class, a late day is an indivisible 24-hour unit. Once you exhaust your 5 late days, we will not accept any late submissions.

Quizzes (10%). We'll have two in-class quizzes, each counting for 5% of your final grade. The quizzes are designed to be close in difficulty and length to the midterm and final, yet worth a considerably smaller portion of your grade. Think of these quizzes as good practice for the midterm and final (and as a chance to solidify your understanding of the course material!).

Midterm (15%). We'll have an in-class midterm on March 6, 2014.

Final (20%). We'll have a cumulative final exam on May 2 from 12:30-2:30pm.

All tests (quizzes, midterm, final) are closed book. You may, however, bring one standard 8.5" by 11" piece of paper with any notes you deem appropriate or significant (front and back). No calculators, iPads, iPhones, Blackberries, Android phones/tablets, or abacuses are allowed.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy Statement

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Department of Student Life, Services for Students with Disabilities, in Cain Hall or call 845-1637.

Academic Integrity Statements

AGGIE HONOR CODE: ''An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.'' Upon accepting admission to Texas A&M University, a student immediately assumes a commitment to uphold the Honor Code, to accept responsibility for learning, and to follow the philosophy and rules of the Honor System. Students will be required to state their commitment on examinations, research papers, and other academic work. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the TAMU community from the requirements or the processes of the Honor System. For additional information please visit: