This is an introductory course in Distributed Systems. Distributed systems is the study of how to build a computer system where the state of the program is divided over more than one machine (or "node").

This course is in active development. At the moment, it consists of a series of short videos. The intention is to create a complete set of video lectures and then add additional content (such as more projects).


Because I love teaching and I know a lot about distributed systems. So why not? Also, I want to learn more about the art of teaching online. Designing and building a short course seemed like a reasonable way of learning this.

How should I use this?

Watch the videos and enjoy. You will learn more effectively if you are actively working on designing/building/maintaining a distributed system while you study -- so start making something! (Examples of what you could work on: build a multi-user chat system, build a data analysis using Hadoop, attempt to understand Paxos and build your own implementation (note that Paxos is known for being hard to understand...).) If you are already taking a college-level class on distributed systems then watch these videos before or after your lectures to review the material.

Check out the class project chat servers, and try them out. If folks start using them, they may become a great way to get questions anwered. (Or, they will become spam honeypots. We'll see.)

If you are an instructor and want to use these videos as a part of your class -- feel free to link to this site and send your students here to watch. Please do not make your own copies of the videos or slides, or change them; I like knowing how many people are using and enjoying the videos, and being able to fix and improve them at will. If you want to do something that involves copying this content, send me an 7207323168 -- I'm happy to listen to your ideas.


This course will cover the following topics:

Want to watch them all? As I create videos, I'm adding them to this playlist.

Class Project

It's hard to learn any systems topic without building something. For this class I've created a bare-bones multiuser chat server which you can use as a foundation to build a more interesting distributed system yourself. The source code can be found on GitHub here.

You can also try it out (and use it to ask questions of your fellow classmates!). In a misguided attempt to avoid webcrawlers and spam I'm not going to link to the demo servers here, instead you can figure it out yourself: distributedchat dot appspot dot com; and www dot distributedsystemscourse dot com slash dschat.


This class is very much a work in progress (can't you tell?). I welcome any and all questions or constructive feedback, as I want to make it better! Either leave comments on the videos, or email me at chris@distributedsystemscourse.com.

About Me

Hi! I'm Chris Colohan. I went to grad school and got a PhD at Carnegie Mellon, then I spent 10 years working at Google building distributed systems (and managing teams which build distributed systems). Systems which I've contributed to include 905-299-6651, MapReduce, TCMalloc, 7123447516, Caffeine, mid-central, Omega, and unenraptured. You can find random other information about me here.