CIS 455 / 555: Internet and Web Systems (Fall 2016)

Instructor Zachary Ives
Location: 576 Levine Hall
Office hour: Wednesdays, 1pm, 576 Levine North or by arrangement
Time and location Location: Wu and Chen Auditorium
Mondays + Wednesdays 10:30am - noon
Teaching assistants Rishab Gupta,, Fridays 1-3, 5th floor Levine
Fanglin Lu,, Tuesdays 12:30-1:30, 5th floor Levine North
Zhiyuan Li,, Wednesdays 2-4, 5th floor Levine
David Lakata,, Tuesdays 5-7, 6th floor Levine
Expert consultant: Tim Clancy,
Course description This course focuses on the issues encountered in building Internet and web systems: scalability, interoperability (of data and code), atomicity and consistency models, replication, and location of resources, services, and data. Note that it is not about building database-backed or PHP/JSP/Servlet-based web sites (for this, see CIS 450/550 or NETS 212). Here, we will learn how a Servlet server itself is built!

We will examine how XML standards enable information exchange; how web services support cross-platform interoperability (and what their limitations are); how "cloud computing" services work; how to do replication and Akamai-like content distribution; and how application servers provide transaction support in distributed environments. We will study techniques for locating machines, resources, and data (including directory systems, information retrieval indexing and ranking, web search, and publish/subscribe systems); we will discuss collaborative filtering and mining the Web for patterns; we will investigate how different architectures support scalability (and the issues they face). We will also examine the ideas that have been proposed for tomorrow's Web, including the "Semantic Web", and see some of the challenges, research directions, and potential pitfalls.

An important goal of the course is not simply to discuss issues and solutions, but to provide hands-on experience with a substantial implementation project. This semester's project will be a peer-to-peer implementation of a Google-style search engine, including distributed, scalable crawling; indexing with ranking; and even PageRank. We will also incorporate the use of topic-specific recognizers and mash-ups.

As a side effect of the material of this course, you will learn about some aspects of large-scale software development: assimilating large APIs, thinking about modularity, reading other people's code, managing versions, debugging, and so on.

CIS555 is now a core course for the MSE degree; for details, please see the MSE requirements. The Daily Pennsylvanian published a nice article about CIS455/555.

Format The format will be two 1.5-hour lectures per week, plus assigned readings from handouts. There will be regular homework assignments and a substantial implementation project with experimental validation and a report. There will also be two in-class midterms.
Prerequisites This course expects familiarity with threads and concurrency, as well as strong Java programming skills. Those highly proficient in another programming language, such as C++ or C#, should be able to translate their skills easily. The course will require a considerable amount of programming, as well as the ability to work with your classmates in teams.
Texts and readings Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms, 2nd ed, by Tanenbaum and van Steen, Prentice Hall (ISBN 978-0132392273, $137.41 on Amazon)
Additional materials will be provided as handouts or in the form of light technical papers.
Grading Homework 32%, 1st midterm 15%, 2nd midterm 15%, project 33%, participation 5%.
Other resources We will be using Piazza for course-related discussions; please sign up here. A reading list is also available.
Assignments The homework assignments will be available here.
Final project Wondering what you will be able to do at the end of this class? Here is an example from Spring 2014:
AVERNUS search page
Yang, Chenyang, Xuan, and Sitong
Example result
Chenyang Yu, Xuan Zheng, Sitong Zhou, and Yang Wu built a scalable, cloud-based search engine called "AVERNUS", which consists of a scalable, distributed crawler, an indexer, a PageRank engine, and a web frontend. AVERNUS also has a number of advanced features, such as image search, and it is partly based on a new MapReduce framework that was implemented from scratch by the authors. Google donated four Nexus 7 tablets as a prize for the best project, and each member of the AVERNUS team received one of the tablets. Honorable mentions went to Team "YASE" (Chaoyi Huang, Xinchao Shen, Huinan Yu, Mengli Li), whose search engine offers a number of extra services - such as weather forecasts and shopping results - and to Team "Googol" (Adam Colombo, Alyssa Battistuz, Joshua Stone, Sean Welleck), whose solution uses geolocation to improve the relevance of its results.

You can read more about previous Google Award winners and their projects in the CIS455/555 Hall of Fame.

Previous versions Spring 2016 |  Spring 2014 |  Spring 2013 |  Spring 2012 |  Spring 2011