Theory of Distributed Systems

Advanced Course, 2+2

Basic Information

Lectures:Friday, 12:15 - 14:00, E1.4 024
Lecturer:Christoph Lenzen
First lecture:28.10. (changed)
Tutorials:Wednesday, 12:15 - 14:00, E1.4 023
Assistant:Fabian Kosmale
First tutorial:2.11. (changed)
Prerequisites:No prerequisites beyond basic familiarity with mathematical reasoning are required; prior knowledge on asymptotic notation and (occasionally) standard probabilistic notions can be useful, but is not essential for following the course.




This course offers a broad introduction to the theory underlying distributed systems. Among others, it covers message passing and shared memory, synchrony vs. asynchrony, fault-tolerance, and congestion. The focus lies on key concepts, algorithmic ideas, and mathematical analysis. Despite some overlap in topics, the angle is very different from that of the core lecture distributed systems; in particular, programming is not part of the curriculum.


Theory in the area of distributed computing aims at understanding systems in which limits on communication and lack of coordination or common knowledge are the principal challenges. Moreover, the redundancy provided by multiple agents (be these computers, ants, smartphones, or humans) enables to overcome faults. Uncertainty is faced on many fronts: How large is the network? Is information up-to-date? Does it merely take a long time until a response from a process is received, or did the process fail? We will examine how such issues affect which problems can be solved and at which cost. On the way, surprising and elegant algorithms will surface alongside the principles guiding their design.


DateTopicExercise SheetExercise Due
28.10.2015ColoringSheet 104.11.2016, 14:00
04.11.2016SynchronizersSheet 211.11.2016, 14:00
11.11.2016Impossibility of ConsensusSheet 318.11.2016, 14:00
18.11.2016ConsensusSheet 425.11.2016, 14:00
25.11.2016Maximal Independent SetSheet 502.12.2016, 14:00
02.12.2016Minimum Spanning TreeSheet 609.12.2016, 14:00
08.12.2016Hardness of MSTSheet 716.12.2016, 14:00
16.12.2016RoutingSheet 8tbd
13.01.2017Self-StabilizationSheet 920.01.2017, 14:00
20.01.2017MutEx + S&CSheet 1027.01.2017, 14:00
27.01.2017Shared CountersSheet 1103.02.2017, 14:00
03.02.2017Port NumberingSheet 1210.02.2017, 14:00
17.02.2017Guest Lecturen/an/a


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