CS 523: Advanced Operating Systems

Fall 2020

The course will be taught online, given its enrollment (>50 students).

Tianyin Xu

Wed/Fri 12:30–13:45pm
The zoom link can be found at Piazza.

Teaching Assistant
Xudong Sun xudongs3@illinois.edu
Andrew Yoo abyoo2@illinois.edu
Office Hours
Xu: Wed 13:45-15:00pm
Xu: Fri 13:45-15:00pm
Sun: Wed 15:00-16:00pm

Piazza: piazza.com/illinois/fall2020/cs523
Email: cs523uiuc@gmail.com

Course Overview

The purpose of this course is to teach operating system design from a research point of view. We will go over key topics of operating systems, walk through the evolution of many different operating systems techniques, and examine their usage in both important historical systems and in modern systems.

We will be going over the following topics:

This is a research-oriented seminar course with a major course project.

Prerequisite: CS 423, CS 425, and CS 433 (or equivalent). Take the Prerequisite Quiz if you are not sure.

Reading List

The course does not have a textbook. Instead, the course material will come from seminal, noteworthy, or representative research papers and articles. Each lecture (except the first one) will have two assigned papers to read. You are expected to read these papers before coming to class, and be prepared to discuss them. We will also list recommended readings; you are encouraged to read those, but not required.

I highly recommend you to read Griswold's advices on how to read a research paper. The take-home message is that until you can answer a bunch of questions, you are not done reading a paper.

I also strongly encourage you to discuss the papers with other students in the class — you may have insights that others do not, and vice versa. Oftentimes, students form reading groups, which I heartily encourage; on the other hand, I would like to point out that group discussion is not an effective substitute for actually reading the paper.

If you need a textbook to review and catch background, I recommend the OSTEP book.

Class Participation

Since this is a discuss-based course, class participation is required. We will discuss the papers and articles that we will have all read before each class. I will lead discussions by asking questions of students at random in class. Note that your performance in class form 10% of your overall grade, so it does matter that you both show up to class and participate in the discussion (which in fact requires you to read the papers). The questions are essentially in the following forms:

Research Project

The best way to learn is by doing. You will undertake your own research project individually or in a group of two. A group with a size larger than two is not encouraged, but is possible if you have a strong justification that the project needs more man-power. I will provide a list of ideas to get you started thinking, but I highly encourage you to pursue your own ideas which typically lead to better results. You will write a project report and present it at the end of the course. The details of the research project is described in the following link.

You are expected to be aware of Academic Integrity Guidelines of the University of Illinois. Any violation of the course or university policies will be treated seriously, and could lead to severe repercussions. Pleae don't cheat. It's not worth it.


There is no homework, no midterm, no final exams. The course is about discussing Systems research (10%) and doing Systems research (90%). Note that the Project Proposal, Checkpoint Report 1, and Checkpoint Report 2 account for 5%, 5%, and 5%, respectively.


This course is designed based on CSE 221 (Graduate Operating Systems) taught at University of California at San Diego (where I did my PhD). It was my favourite course during my grad school -- I took it and TA-ed for it multiple times with different professors including Professor Geoff Voelker, Professor Yuanyuan Zhou, and Professor Stefan Savage. They should take the credits for the course design.