CIS 455 / 555: Internet and Web Systems (Fall 2017)

Instructor Zachary Ives
Location: 576 Levine Hall
Office hour: Wed 1:00-2:00pm
Time and location Location: Wu and Chen Auditorium
Mondays + Wednesdays 10:30am – noon
Teaching assistants Felix Fan, fankejin, Tuesday 1:30-3:00, 5th floor Levine bump space
Rishabh Gupta, rgupt, Wednesday 4:30-6:00, 5th floor Levine bump space
Sarvesh Surana, ssurana, Thursday 6:00-7:30, 6th floor Levine bump space
Zhi Xu, xuzhi, Monday 3:00-4:30, 6th floor Levine bump space
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, partitioning, 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 Web microservices framework itself is built!

Similarly, the course covers stream processors and "big data analytics" platforms like MapReduce, Apache Storm, Spark, and so on -- from the perspective of how they work. For details on using such systems, see CIS 545. Here you'll actually build such systems!

We will examine how XML and JSON 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 distributed coorcination (and the issues they face). We will also examine the ideas that have been proposed for tomorrow's 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 start with a Web server and microservices framework. It will culminate in a distributed implementation of a Google-style search engine, including distributed, scalable crawling; indexing with ranking; and even PageRank on your own MapReduce-style implementation. We will also incorporate streaming data.

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 978-1530281756)
You can buy a physical copy (e.g., for $35 on Amazon) or download a free digital copy here.
Additional materials will be provided as handouts or in the form of light technical papers.
Grading Homework 32%, first midterm 15%, second midterm 15%, project 33%, participation 5%.
Other resources We will be using Piazza for course-related discussions; please sign up here.
Assignments The homework assignments will be available here. You can submit your solutions online (requires Google@SEAS login).
Final project Wondering what you will be able to do at the end of this class? Here is an example from Spring 2017:
 
Example results from PennCH3
Hung, Hitali, Chirag, and Harsh
Searching with Alexa
The 2017 Google Award for the best final project went to Hung Nguyen, Chirag Shah, Hitali Sheth, and Harsh Verma for their "PennCH3" search engine. PennCH3 not only searches the web but also displays information from a variety of sources, including soccer scores, stock quotes, weather forecasts, and shopping results. Users can also submit searches using their Alexa-enabled devices. Under the hood, the system is highly scalable and uses replication for fault tolerance; the team (boldly) proved this by killing some of the nodes during a live demonstration. Google generously donated four Google Home devices as a prize, and each member of the PennCH3 team received one of the devices.

A honorable mention went to project "Q+A" (Mani Mahesh, Archith Shivanagere, Rishisingh Solanki, and Sanidhya Tiwari), whose solution featured location-specific results and used reinforcement learning to improve the results based on feedback from the users.

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

Schedule