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Monash University

FIT5174 Parallel and distributed systems - Semester 2, 2014

Modern computer systems contain parallelism in both hardware and software. This unit covers parallelism in both general purpose and application specific computer architectures and the programming paradigms that allow parallelism to be exploited in software. This unit examines both shared memory and message passing paradigms in both hardware and software; concurrency, multithreading and synchronicity; parallel, clustered and distributed supercomputing models and languages. Students will program in these paradigms.

Mode of Delivery

Caulfield (Day)

Workload Requirements

Minimum total expected workload equals 12 hours per week comprising:

(a.) Contact hours for on-campus students:

  • Two hours of lectures
  • One 2-hour laboratory/

(b.) Additional requirements (all students):

  • A minimum of 8 hours independent study per week for completing lab and project work, private study and revision.

Additional workload requirements

Students will be expected to spend about 12 hours per week during semester on this unit as follows:

  • two-hour lecture at Caulfield (as timetabled).
  • two-hour lab/tutorial in at Caulfield (as timetabled) to study the background material and to work on assignments and tutorial exercises and discuss lecture material.
  • up to 2 hours per week of preparation including reviewing the lecture materials
  • up to 3 hours per week surveying existing literature in the library, online resources etc; hands-on lab exercises
  • a minimum of 3 hours per week personal study in order to satisfy the reading and assignment expectations

While it is strongly recommended you attend lectures and lab/tutorials, lecture and other supplementary teaching material will be made available on-line and Dr. Khan can be contacted by e-mail or phone for assistance. The assignments and tutorial lab exercises can all be done at home if you have suitable facilities, but by attending lab/tutorials on campus you may get assistance from your tutor/lecturer and learn through discussion with fellow students. Lectures will be recorded but sometimes the recording technology doesn't work properly and not everything presented in lectures (such as things on overhead projectors or whiteboards) will appear on recordings.

Unit Relationships




Recommended knowledge: operating systems, including synchronisation and interprocess communication mechanisms; advanced computer architecture, including pipelining techniques.

Chief Examiner

Campus Lecturer


Dr Asad Khan

Consultation hours: By arrangement via e-mail.



To be announced

Consultation hours: To be announced

Your feedback to Us

Monash is committed to excellence in education and regularly seeks feedback from students, employers and staff. One of the key formal ways students have to provide feedback is through the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Units (SETU) survey. The University’s student evaluation policy requires that every unit is evaluated each year. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the surveys. The feedback is anonymous and provides the Faculty with evidence of aspects that students are satisfied and areas for improvement.

For more information on Monash’s educational strategy, see:

www.monash.edu.au/about/monash-directions/ and on student evaluations, see: www.policy.monash.edu/policy-bank/academic/education/quality/student-evaluation-policy.html

Previous Student Evaluations of this Unit

Based on previous feedback the number of assignments has been reduced from three to two, and supervised and assessed lab/tutorial sessions have been included to allow more personal guidance of students and more focused practical experience of parallel/distributed programming.

If you wish to view how previous students rated this unit, please go to

Academic Overview

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this unit students will have:
  • knowledge of a variety of parallel architectures, such as bus-based, massively parallel, cluster, vector;
  • knowledge of a variety of parallel programming paradigms, synchronisation and parallelisation primitives, message passing, data parallel, tuple space;
  • understanding of concurrency, synchronicity and parallelism;
  • understanding of the design issues of parallel systems;
  • skills in designing, developing and debugging parallel programs using a variety of paradigms.

Unit Schedule

Week Activities Assessment
0 Unit Introduction on web (no lecture). Register for lab sessions No formal assessment or activities are undertaken in week 0
1 Distributed systems  
2 Interprocess communication and remote procedure call Weekly group submissions Week 2 to Week 10 (both Weeks inclusive)
3 Message Passage Library (MPI)  
4 Synchronisation, MUTEX, Deadlocks  
5 Election Algorithms, Distributed Transactions, Concurrency Control Assignment 1 due Monday 25 August 2014, 12PM
6 1) Faults, Distributed Consensus, and Security (2) Parallel Computing  
7 Parallel Computing Alternatives  
8 Instruction Level Parallelism  
9 Vector Architecture  
10 (1) Data Parallel Architectures (2) SIMD Architectures  
11 (1) Introduction to MIMD (2) Distributed Memory MIMD Architectures Assignment 2 code demonstrations during Week 11 labs (attendance is essential)
12 Class Test during lecture Assignment 2 code demonstrations during Week 12 labs (attendance is essential). Class test during Week 12 lecture
  SWOT VAC No formal assessment is undertaken in SWOT VAC. Assignment 2 due Week 14, Friday 7 November 2014, 12PM
  Examination period LINK to Assessment Policy: http://policy.monash.edu.au/policy-bank/

*Unit Schedule details will be maintained and communicated to you via your learning system.

Teaching Approach

Lecture and tutorials or problem classes
This teaching and learning approach provides facilitated learning, practical exploration and peer learning.

The lectures expound on the topics in the curriculum linking the lecturer's real-world experience with experimental and commercial systems with theoretical principles. There will be freedom to interact with the lecturer to focus on aspects of particular interest to the students or on aspects relating to assessment tasks.

The laboratory/tutorial sessions provide an environment in which students can explore aspects of the curriculum through practical exercises, learning through experience. Having the academic staff member present enables assistance and explanation of unexpected behaviour. The laboratory/tutorial sessions also provide a forum where students can compare experiences and help one another to reach an understanding of the material, and where the tutor can elaborate on material covered in lectures.

Assessment Summary

In-semester assessment: 100%

Assessment Task Value Due Date
Assignment 1 - Distributed Systems 25% Week 5, Monday 25 August 2014, 12PM
Assignment 2 - Parallel Computing 25% (6% for code demonstration) Code demonstrations during Week 11 or 12 labs. Assignment due Week 14, Friday 7 November 2014, 12PM
Class Test - Parallel Architectures 25% During the Week 12 lecture
The assessed laboratory/tutorial work 25% Weekly group submissions Week 2 to Week 10 (both Weeks inclusive)

Assessment Requirements

Assessment Policy

Assessment Tasks


  • Assessment task 1
    Assignment 1 - Distributed Systems
    A theoretical assignment in the form of a research paper. The students will demonstrate their understanding of multi-process algorithms by researching and writing about their distributed systems topics.

    The detailed assignment specification and topics will be provided on the unit web site.
    Criteria for assessment:

    Individual assessment. Marks will be allocated, roughly equally, against the application areas listed in the assignment specification. Further marks will be allocated for the length of the paper (against the word limit) and the number and quality of references.

    Due date:
    Week 5, Monday 25 August 2014, 12PM
  • Assessment task 2
    Assignment 2 - Parallel Computing
    Write parallel programs using the message passing programming model. The students will demonstrate their practical skills in developing parallel distributed applications through this assessment.
    25% (6% for code demonstration)
    Criteria for assessment:

    Individual assessment. This work will be assessed on a mix of programming tasks and theoretical write-up.

    Due date:
    Code demonstrations during Week 11 or 12 labs. Assignment due Week 14, Friday 7 November 2014, 12PM
  • Assessment task 3
    Class Test - Parallel Architectures
    Students will be given a 60 minutes class test during the Week 12 lecture, based on the parallel architecture lecture notes, comprising several short questions.
    Criteria for assessment:

    Individual assessment. Correct answers to questions.

    Due date:
    During the Week 12 lecture
    The test will be closed book. No calculators or computers will be required.
  • Assessment task 4
    The assessed laboratory/tutorial work
    Assessed laboratory/tutorial work submissions. The code developed during the lab will be demonstrated and the results submitted at the end of each laboratory/tutorial session.
    Criteria for assessment:

    The laboratory work is group-based and it is assessed on correctness and on the quality of the solutions and on the quality of presentation/documentation. Individual marks for each group member will be derived from (i) the peer assessements made by the group under the supervision of the tutor and (ii) the overall marks achieved by the group.

    Due date:
    Weekly group submissions Week 2 to Week 10 (both Weeks inclusive)

Learning resources

Reading list

The following are some books that may be of interest. There is no single text book covering the content of FIT5174 at a suitable level. Sufficient material will be provided on the unit web site to cater for FIT5174 students. If students have interests in specific areas of parallel or distributed computing they should contact the lecturer for advice on suitable references.

G.R. Andrews: Foundations of Multithreaded, Parallel and Distributed Programming, Addison-Wesley, 2000.

J. Magee and J. Kramer: Concurrency:  State models & Java Programming; John-Wiley & Sons, 2006.

I.T. Foster: Designing and Building Parallel Programs, Addison-Wesley, 1995.

M. Maekawa, A.E. Oldehoeft, R.R. Oldehoeft: Operating Systems Advanced Concepts, Benjamin/Cummings, 1987.

Advanced Computer Architectures: A Design Space Approach, Sima, Fountain and Kacsuk , Addison Wesley Publishers.

Further resources will be made available via the unit web site.

Monash Library Unit Reading List (if applicable to the unit)

Faculty of Information Technology Style Guide

Feedback to you

Examination/other end-of-semester assessment feedback may take the form of feedback classes, provision of sample answers or other group feedback after official results have been published. Please check with your lecturer on the feedback provided and take advantage of this prior to requesting individual consultations with staff. If your unit has an examination, you may request to view your examination script booklet, see http://intranet.monash.edu.au/infotech/resources/students/procedures/request-to-view-exam-scripts.html

Types of feedback you can expect to receive in this unit are:

  • Informal feedback on progress in labs/tutes
  • Graded assignments with comments
  • Test results and feedback

Extensions and penalties

Returning assignments

Resubmission of assignments

Resubmission of assignments after the due date will not be allowed, however assignments handed-in early for feedback may be resubmitted by the due date.

Referencing requirements

Formatting and referencing information will provided on the unit website.

Assignment submission

It is a University requirement (http://www.policy.monash.edu/policy-bank/academic/education/conduct/student-academic-integrity-managing-plagiarism-collusion-procedures.html) for students to submit an assignment coversheet for each assessment item. Faculty Assignment coversheets can be found at http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/resources/student/forms/. Please check with your Lecturer on the submission method for your assignment coversheet (e.g. attach a file to the online assignment submission, hand-in a hard copy, or use an online quiz). Please note that it is your responsibility to retain copies of your assessments.

Online submission

If Electronic Submission has been approved for your unit, please submit your work via the learning system for this unit, which you can access via links in the my.monash portal.

Required Resources

Please check with your lecturer before purchasing any Required Resources. Limited copies of prescribed texts are available for you to borrow in the library, and prescribed software is available in student labs.

VMPlayer (Freeware) or VMWare Workstation (VMWare Fusion for Mac users) software. This is available in University computer labs, but access to a personal computer with this software installed is highly recommended.

Other Information


Monash has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and to provide advice on how they might uphold them. You can find Monash’s Education Policies at: www.policy.monash.edu.au/policy-bank/academic/education/index.html

Key educational policies include:

Faculty resources and policies

Important student resources including Faculty policies are located at http://intranet.monash.edu.au/infotech/resources/students/

Graduate Attributes Policy

Student Charter

Student services

Monash University Library

Disability Liaison Unit

Students who have a disability or medical condition are welcome to contact the Disability Liaison Unit to discuss academic support services. Disability Liaison Officers (DLOs) visit all Victorian campuses on a regular basis.


Reading material including research papers, programming manuals and system specifications, will be distributed electronically as part of the background reading material for FIT5174.

Feel free to e-mail the lecturer, Dr. Asad Khan, with any queries. Please include "FIT5174" in the subject line to ensure prompt responses. Dr. Khan's e-mail address is:


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