Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)


Department: Computer Science


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap
Tied to


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to provide an introduction to the issues and technology of Distributed Systems, that forms a sound basis for later work in the course. There will be a mixture of theory and practice, studying the basic ideas and experimenting with them in real systems. The assessment will involve the construction and analysis of a non-trivial distributed system.


  • Techniques: message passing, remote procedure call, client-server, shared file systems, distributed objects, distributed shared memory, process groups, distributed transactions
  • Technologies: Java RMI, CORBA, DCOM
  • Theory: Time; Process coordination; Fault tolerance; Transactions; Replication
  • Security issues

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the underlying concepts, technologies and algorithms relating to Distributed Systems, being able to explain the key points, and to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the technologies.
  • Demonstrate sufficient knowledge to critically analyse the design of distributed systems, in terms of the suitability of the techniques used.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To be able to build and modify simple components of distributed systems using modern technologies, and to work in appropriate languages.
  • To be able to integrate components working in different languages and platforms, and to be aware of the issues involved in building heterogenous distributed systems.
Key Skills:
  • The outcomes mentioned above include elements of IT skills, Communication (e.g., for the final viva) as well as analytical/critical thought (or problem solving).

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module comprises two weeks of lectures, directed reading and laboratory exercises; and two weeks undertaking a major assignment. The overall workload conforms to the standard SLAT requirement of 150 hours equivalent to 15 credits.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 6 3 per week in weeks 1 and 2 2 hours 12
Tutorials 4 in weeks 3 and 4 2 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 130
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Laboratory report Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Staged written feedback of laboratory and practical work and/or formative exercises.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University