DS221: Introduction to Scalable Systems

Department of Computational and Data Sciences

Introduction to Scalable Systems

  • Instructor: Sathish Vadhiyar (www | email), Yogesh Simmhan (www | email) and Matthew Jacob (www | email)
  • Teaching Assistant: TBD
  • Course number: DS221
  • Credits: 3:0
  • Semester: Aug, 2017
  • Lecture: Tue/Th 1130AM-1PM (First class: Aug 3, 1130AM)
  • Room: CDS 202


This course covers computer systems topics that are essential for students engaging in computational and data sciences. It introduces topics on architecture, OS and data structures that may be new to students without a degree in Computer Science. Then it moves to more advanced topics on tree/graph data structures, HPC/GPGPU programming and Big Data platforms.

Some of the topics covered are: Architecture: computer organization, single-core optimizations including exploiting cache hierarchy and vectorization, parallel architectures including multi-core, shared memory, distributed memory and GPU architectures; Algorithms and Data Structures: algorithmic analysis, overview of trees and graphs, algorithmic strategies, concurrent data structures; Parallelization Principles: motivation, challenges, metrics, parallelization steps, data distribution, PRAM model; Parallel Programming Models and Languages: OpenMP, MPI, CUDA; Distributed Computing: Commodity cluster and cloud computing; Distributed Programming: MapReduce/Hadoop model.

This course is a precursor to more advanced courses like DS 295: Parallel Programming, and DS 256: Scalable Systems for Data Science, and includes topics from the earlier DS 286: Data Structures and Programming, and DS 292: High Performance Computing courses.


This is an introductory crash-course on computer systems, algorithms, HPC and Big Data platforms. So the pre-requisites are minimal: Basic knowledge of computer systems, data structures and programming, and algorithms. However, the course will have a rapid pace and students are expected to pick up the skills rapidly through self-learning.

Grading Scheme

  • Sessionals
    • Two mid-Term exams (Sep 14, Oct 19) – 20
    • 4 assignments – 30
  • Terminal
    • Final exam (December 10 forenoon) – 50


  • Parallel Computing Architecture. A Hardware/Software Approach. David Culler, Jaswant Singh. Publisher: Morgan Kauffman. ISBN: 981-4033-103. 1999.
  • Parallel Computing. Theory and Practice. Michael J. Quinn. Publisher: Tata: McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 0-07-049546-7. 2002.
  • Computer Systems – A Programmer’s Perspective. Bryant and O’Hallaron. Publisher: Pearson Education. ISBN: 81-297-0026-3. 2003.
  • Introduction to Parallel Computing. Ananth Grama, Anshul Gupta, George Karypis, Vipin Kumar. Publisher: Addison Wesley. ISBN: 0-201-64865-2. 2003.
  • An Introduction to Parallel Programming. Peter S Pacheco. Publisher: Morgan Kauffman. ISBN: 978-93-80931-75-3. 2011.
  • Online references for OpenMP, MPI, CUDA
  • Data Structures, Algorithms, and Applications in C++, 2nd Edition, Sartaj Sahni*,**
  • Lecture slides

Tentative Schedule

  • Aug 3, Introductory class
  • Architecture (10 lectures/MJT and VSS)
    • Computer organization including cache hierarchy, locality
    • Single-Core Optimizations:
    • Parallel architectures:
      • Shared and Distributed memory architectures – ppt
      • Many-core architectures – ppt
      • Reading: Architecture – Grama et al. – 2.4, Many-core – Google for NVIDIA Kepler white paper
  • Midterm Exam 1
  • Algorithms and Data Structures: (6 lectures/YS)
    • Algorithmic analysis and Lists [PDF]
    • Basic Data Structures: Stacks, Queues, Trees [PDF]
    • Searching: Hashmap, Search trees [PDF]
      • Please fill in details for turing cluster account. Link is in the slides.
    • Fundamentals of graphs [PDF]
    • Algorithmic Strategies [PDF]
    • Concurrent data structures
  • Big Data Systems (3 lectures/YS)
    • Introduction to Big Data, Spark programming model [PDF]
    • Big Data programming models: Guest lectures on Storm [PDF] and Giraph [PDF]
  • Midterm Exam 2 (Oct 19)
  • Parallelization Principles (4 lectures/VSS) ppt
    • Motivation & Challenges of parallel computing
    • Metrics and scalability laws
    • Parallelization Steps – decomposition, minimizing communication and synchronization, mapping
    • Data distributions
    • An ideal parallelism model – PRAM
    • Reading: Grama et al. – 3.1, 3.5, 5.1-5.6; Culler and Singh – 2.2, 2.3
  • Parallel Programming Models and Languages (5 lectures/VSS)
    • Shared memory: OpenMP
    • Distributed Memory: MPI – pt2pt, collectives
    • GPUs: CUDA
  • Final Exam


Mid-Term Answer Keys