This course will introduce how modern data centers and clouds work. Students will learn about system designs and emerging trends in real-wold data centers like AWS/Amazon, Azure/Microsoft, Google Cloud/Google, and Facebook. The topics covered in this course include modern cloud concepts like serverless, data center networking, big-data and data-processing systems, data center storage systems, data center hardware, virtualization and container, AI software and hardware systems in data centers, etc.

This course will have a mixture of paper (or online material) reading/discussion and lectures by Prof. Zhang. There will be no homework or exams. Grades will be based on a relatively large reserch-oriented project, class participation, and paper reading summaries.

No prerequisite is needed other than some basic understanding of computer systems.

Class information

  • Class time: Wed and Fri 9am - 10:20am
  • Location: CSE 2154
  • Instructor: Yiying Zhang (yiying@ucsd.edu)
  • Office hour: Wed 10:20am - 11am @ CSE3124 or by appointment
  • TA: Chen Chen (chenchen@eng.ucsd.edu)
  • TA Office hour: Mon 2pm - 3pm @ CSE3144 or by appointment


  • Paper reading 25%
  • Class participation and discussion lead 15%
  • Project 60%

Paper reading

Each assigned paper has three questions that you need to answer. Prior to each lecture, you should submit a summary of the paper (in 2-3 sentences) and your answers to the three questions. Submission instructions will be posted shortly.

Paper discussion

The goals of paper discussion are to both learn what the paper proposes/builds and discuss the topic in a more general setting. All students should actively participate in class discuussion. Each student will co-lead one discussion during the quarter (roughly three students co-leading one class). Here are what you need to do for discussion lead:

  • Prepare slides that you will use to lead discussion. You can use slides that are available online, build slides yourself, or extend existing online slides with your own content.
  • Your lead should reflect the goals of paper discussion (above), which means you should not only just explain the paper (using existing online slides) but also prepare questions that will stimulate class discussion.
  • Send slides to me and the TA no later than noon of the corresponding class date.

You can find more advice on discussion lead here