CSCI 694a Current Topics in Network and Distributed Systems: Delivering Services on Today's Internet


Today, large web providers such as Google and Netflix account for significant portions of the Internet's traffic. In this course, we will investigate how these providers use (and abuse) the Internet's protocols to deliver their services. In focusing on the Internet's role in these services, we will, for the most part, not cover issues that predominantly pertain to a service's clients or servers but not the network between them. Our goals include:

The course will include student presentations, discussions, and research projects. The readings will be selected from recent papers published in top measurement, networking, and systems conferences. We will also read papers from the operational community.


Class time and location: Wednesdays 3:30-6:20, Kaprielian Hall (KAP) 145
Instructor: Ethan Katz-Bassett (SAL 236, office hour by appointment)


You will generally be expected to read 2-5 papers a week, although it may vary some depending on length.
There are no required textbooks for the course.


CS551 or permission of the instructor. This class is appropriate for graduate students or advanced undergraduates with previous classwork in networking. Students from non-systems/networking areas are welcome.


There are no exams in this class. The course grade will be determined based on:

  • Written paper responses and class presentations/discussion (50%): Students are expected to write responses to 2-4 papers a week. Each week, one or two students will give a presentation on the papers and lead the discussions in class. Other students are expected to participate in the discussion. For two weeks, instead of the standard course structure, we will instead conduct a Shadow Program Committee for NSDI 2014. We will read submitted papers and go through the reviewing process, ultimately arriving at a shadow conference program. This is an opportunity to learn about the peer-review process and gain experience as a reviewer. It will expose us to cutting-edge papers related to the course. Hopefully, the papers will include some from industry, as NSDI is having an Operational Systems track this year.
  • A research project, including ~6 pg writeup and ~20 minute presentation (50%): The semester-long project is an open-ended Internet research project, on a topic related to the course. The instructor will provide some possible project topics, or (with instructor approval) you can work on a project of your own devising. Projects may involve making new measurements or performing new analysis of existing data. Other types of projects may also be appropriate. Projects should be done in groups of two. If you plan to work individually or in a group larger than two, please obtain instructor permission first.

Statement for Students with Disabilities

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.

Statement on Academic Integrity

USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one's own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another's work as one's own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. Scampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the Student Conduct Code in Section 11.00, while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A:

Students will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review, should there be any suspicion of academic dishonesty. The Review process can be found at:

Emergency Preparedness/Course Continuity in a Crisis

In case of a declared emergency if travel to campus is not feasible, USC executive leadership will announce an electronic way for instructors to teach students in their residence halls or homes using a combination of Blackboard, teleconferencing, and other technologies.

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