Large Scale Networked Systems

Wednesdays: 12:00 - 1:20, Ry 277

Fridays: 11:30 - 12:50, Ry 277

Instructor: Prof. Ian Foster
TA: Adriana Iamnitchi


Course structure


Reading List

Project Ideas



Current research in distributed systems often deals with decentralized, dynamic, large-scale systems. Innovative self-configuring overlay networks such as Gnutella are fostering research in the domain of large-scale, dynamic systems, often labeled Peer-to-Peer systems. This seminar course aims to explore some of the tools necessary for doing research in this domain.

Course Structure

The course is structured with the twin goals of providing (a) an in-depth understanding of current topics in Internet research, and (b) experience in the review, analysis, and presentation of advanced technical material. The class workload has a participation component and a final project.


In each class we cover two research papers. Before the class, you must all read the papers and develop brief answers to a set of standard questions, as follows:

  1. State the main contribution of the paper
  2. Critique the main contribution. 
    1. Rate the significance of the paper on a scale of 5 (breakthrough), 4 (significant contribution), 3 (modest contribution), 2 (incremental contribution), 1 (no contribution or negative contribution). Explain your rating in a sentence or two.
    2. Rate how convincing the methodology is. You may consider some of the following questions (use what is relevant): do the claims and conclusions follow from the experiments? Are the assumptions realistic? Are the experiments well designed? Are there different experiments that would be more convincing? Are there other alternatives the authors should have considered? (And, of course, is the paper free of methodological errors?)
    3. What is the most important limitation of the approach?
  3. What are the three strongest and/or most interesting ideas in the paper?
  4. What are the three most striking weaknesses in the paper?
  5. Name three questions that you would like to ask the authors?
  6. Detail an interesting extension to the work not mentioned in the future work section.
  7. Optional comments on the paper that you’d like to see discussed in class.

You may find the article The task of a referee useful. Your reviews must be submitted by midnight before class (firm deadline!) by email to Your submissions will be posted on the Web before class. 

Each paper is discussed in class. Discussions will be lead by one or more students and may include a brief presentation of the paper (5-7 minutes). You should follow this guidelines on how to handle these presentations, but in brief, you should:

Deliverables of the leading group:

  1. Prepare a copy of you discussion plan for each class participant. Before class, send your plan to Anda.

  2. Master critique (see guidelines) is due before the class following the class discussion moderated by your group.

  3. The leading group does NOT need to turn in paper evaluations for that class.


Final Project

Students taking the course for credit are required to complete a project and a paper describing the results of this project. The project is intended to provide you with an opportunity to gain experience with research in a topic related to the content of the course.

In order to provide enough time for reasonable progress, as well as instructor feedback, the following milestones must be adhered to:

The final projects are graded and evaluated by all students: each student reads all final papers and assists to all final project presentations and for each paper/presentation answers the same standard questionnaire as for the papers read during the course.


The final grade reflects the performance as moderator, as paper reader and reviewer, as evaluator of the colleagues’ projects, and the quality of the own project, as evaluated by instructor.



Reading list (the final version will go into schedule).





Date Class Schedule/Reading Leading group Evaluations
1 March 27 Introduction to the class and overview material [ppt]. Ian
2 March 29 [SRC84], [BC01] Ian, Yu, Mindy
3 April 3 [SRC84], [BC01] (rescheduled) Ian, Yu, Mindy [eval], [summary]
4 April 5 [BS98], [O00]

Project proposals due.

Anda, Kavitha, Ivona [eval] [summary]
5 April 10 [BBBC01], [ZDPS01]  Rahul, Matei, Xuehai [Eval]
6 April 12 [LAJ99], [CDGN01] Mindy, Catalin, Yu [Eval] [summary]
7 April 17 [FFF99], [BKMR00] Ian, Ivona [Eval] [Summary]
8* April 19 [A99], [W98], [K99], [ALPH01] 

NOTE: at least 1 paper evaluation due by midnight before class!

Xuehai, Yu, Janos, Rahul [Eval
9 April 24 [BJSM01] (abstractPDF), [KSBB99]   Matei, Mindy [Eval]
10 April 26 [SGG02] [SMKK01]  

Project summary due

Anda, Oleg [Eval]
11 May 1 [RFHK01] [RHKS02]   Mindy, Yu [Eval] [summary]
12 May 3 [ABKM01] [CDHR]   Linda, Matei [Eval]
13 Monday, May 6   [EGHK99] [HSWH00]  Ian, Anda [Eval]
14 May 10 No class.
15* May 15 See this
16 May 17 [DPMM01]  [GKWC02]   Kavitha, Anda [Eval]
17 May 23, 8:30 am Please note the special day and time!

 [G99] [C00] 

Mindy, Yu [Eval] [summary]
18 May 24  Project report due.

[SA99] [SM02] 

Oleg [Eval]
19 May 29 Final discussion.
20 May 31, 8 am Presentation of student projects.

* Instructor is traveling: we will need to either reschedule, or proceed with the TA