NDAA09004U  Principles of Computer Systems Design

Volume 2014/2015
MSc Programme in Computer Science


The overall purpose of this course is to offer students an understanding of techniques in computer systems with a focus on correctness and adherence to system properties, such as modularity and atomicity, while at the same time achieving high performance. The course exposes students to various system mechanisms, especially from distributed systems, database systems, and network systems.

The course will explore the following aspects:


  • System abstractions and design principles
  • Modularity with clients and services
  • Performance
  • Atomicity and transactions
  • Concurrency control and recovery
  • Reliability, fault-tolerance, and redundancy
  • Distributed protocols for agreement and replication
  • Large-scale data processing
Learning Outcome


  • Describe the design of transactional and distributed systems.
  • Explain how to enforce modularity through a client-service abstraction.
  • Explain techniques for large-scale data processing.     



  • Implement systems that include mechanisms for modularity, atomicity, and fault tolerance.
  • Structure and conduct experiments to evaluate a system's performance.





  • Discuss design alternatives for a computer system, identifying system properties as well as mechanisms for improving performance
  • Analyze protocols for concurrency control and recovery, as well as for distribution and replication.
  • Apply principles of large-scale data processing to concrete problems.



See Absalon when the course is set up.

Basic principles of operating systems and/or databases.
Working knowledge of Java and/or C#
Notions of UNIX / shell scripting are helpful, but not required
Lectures and exercise sessions.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 5 days
The final exam is a 5-day take home assignment with external grading, grades using the "7-point grading scale". Submission in Absalon.
Exam registration requirements
5-7 take home assignments, marked as pass/fail, must be passed to participate in the final exam.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
The re-exam consists of resubmission of original exam assignment extended by an addendum. An oral examination of 25 minutes without preparation will ensue, with external grading, and grades using the "7-point grading scale". The re-submission will be the basis for the oral exam; however the oral exam will not be exclusively limited to the resubmission.
Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 24
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Project work
  • 90
  • Theory exercises
  • 50
  • Total
  • 206