Course General Overview


Kai Chen, Assistant Professor
Office: 3546 (via lift 25/26)

Time and Location

  • Lectures: Mon and Wed 12:00pm-1:20pm, Rm 4504, Lift 25-26.
  • Office hours: By appointment, Rm 3546, Lift 25-26.

Course Description

Driven by technology advances and economic forces, massive data centers are being built around the world to serve as the infrastructures for many big data analysis (e.g., GFS, Map-reduce, and Dryad), Internet-based applications (e.g., web search, e-commerce, and online social networks) and cloud computing services (e.g., Amazon EC2, Microsoft Windows Azure, and Google App Engine).

In this course, our goal is to study the critical technology trends and new challenges in data center networking and cloud computing. We will understand different trade-offs on performance, cost, scalability, manageability across the infrastructure, network, and application layers. The course will include student presentations, discussions, and projects. The papers will be selected from top networking and system conferences.

Course Prerequisites

  • This class is appropriate for graduate students and senior undergraduate students with background in networking.

Course Materials


  • There is no exams for this class. The course grade will be determined based on:
    • Class participation 10%
    • Paper reading summary 10%
    • In class paper presentation and debate 20%
    • Research project 60%: This is a semester-long, open-ended network/system research project. Project topics are of your choice but should be related to data center networking and cloud computing and approved by instructor. Projects can be done in groups of two or three students and may include a systems building component.

Papers Reading and Presentation

  • Paper reading: All students should read the to-be-discussed papers before class and write reviews for ONE paper per week. Email the reviews to the instructor ( prior to each class.
    • Paper summary: What are the major issues addressed in the paper? Do you consider them important? Comment on the degree of novelty, creativity and technical depth in the paper.
    • Strengths: 2-4 bulletted points (Explain in more details in the detailed comments)
    • Weaknesses: 2-4 bulletted points (Explain in more details in the detailed comments)
    • Detailed comments: Follow the instructions in Keshav's paper.
    • A short paragraph where you state the relevance of the ideas today, potential future research suggested by the article or in your mind.

  • Presentation: Two teams of students will be chosen to debate and lead the discussion. One team will be designated the offense and the other the defense. In class, the defense team will present first. For 30 minutes the team will discuss the work as if it were their own.
    • The team should present the work and make a compelling case why the contribution is significant. This will include the context of the contribution, prior work, and in cases where papers are previously published, how the work has influenced the research community or industry's directions (impact). If the paper is very recent, the defense should present arguments for the potential impact. Coming up with potential future work can show how the paper opens doors to new research.
    • The presentation should go well beyond a paper "summary". The defense should not critique the work other than to try to pre-empt attacks from the offense (e.g., by explicitly limiting the scope of the contribution).

    After the defense presentation, the offense team will present for 20 minutes.
    • This team should critique the work, and make a case for missing links, unaddressed issues, lack of impact, inappropriateness of the problem formulation, etc.
    • The more insightful and less obvious the criticisms the better.
    • While the offense should prepare remarks in advance, they should also react to the points made by the defense.

  • How to give a presentation? See Randy Katz's guidelines.