Distributed Computing Systems Engineering MSc

Suspended This course is suspended until further notice.

  • Overview
  • Course Content
  • Special Features
  • Employability
  • Fees
  • Entry Criteria

About the Course

This course covers a range of essential topics related to distributed computing systems. Yet these modules are not isolated; each one takes its place in the field in relation to others. The emphasis in the course is to build the connections between topics, enabling software engineers to achieve co-operation between distinct autonomous systems under constraints of cost and performance requirements.

About Electronic and Computer Engineering at Brunel

The Electronic and Computer Engineering discipline is one of the largest in the University, with a portfolio of research contracts totalling £7.5 million, and has strong links with industry.

We have a wide range of research groups, each with a complement of academics and research staff and students. The groups are:

The laboratories are well equipped with an excellent range of facilities to support the research work and courses. We have comprehensive computing resources in addition to those offered centrally by the University. The discipline is particularly fortunate in having extensive gifts of software and hardware to enable it to undertake far-reaching design projects.


The past few years have witnessed that Grid computing is evolving as a promising large-scale distributed computing infrastructure for scientists and engineers around the world to share various resources on the Internet including computers, software, data, instruments.

Many countries around the world have invested heavily on the development of the Grid computing infrastructure. Many IT companies have been actively involved in Grid development. Grid computing has been applied in a variety of areas such as particle physics, bio-informatics, finance, social science and manufacturing. The IT industry has seen the Grid computing infrastructure as the next generation of the Internet.

The aim of the programme is to equip high quality and ambitious graduates with the necessary advanced technical and professional skills for an enhanced career either in industry or leading edge research in the area of distributed computing systems.

Specifically, the main objectives of the programme are:

  • To critically appraise advanced technologies for developing distributed systems;
  • To practically examine the development of large scale distributed systems;
  • To critically investigate the problems and pitfalls of distributed systems in business, commerce, and industry.


Admissions and Course Enquiries
Web: Admissions Enquiries Information
Tel (before application): +44 (0)1895 265814 (School Marketing Office)
Tel (after application): +44 (0)1895 265265 (Admissions Office)
Contact Admissions or Course Enquiries Online

Course Director: Dr Maozhen Li
Email: maozhen.li@brunel.ac.uk

School Marketing Office
Web: School of Engineering and Design
Tel: +44 (0)1895 265814
Email: sed-pg-admissions@brunel.ac.uk

Course Coordinator in Esslingen: Prof Dr-Ing H Khakzar
Address: Allmersbacher Str 8, D-70374 Stuttgart, Germany
Email: haybatolah@khakzar.de
Tel: +49 711 525694
Fax: +49 711 528615

Course Content

Who is this course for?

  • Recent graduates in Electrical or Electronic Engineering or Computer Science, who wish to develop their skills in the field of distributed computing systems.
  • Practicing engineers and computer professionals who wish to develop their knowledge in this area.
  • People with suitable mathematical, scientific or other engineering qualifications, usually with some relevant experience, who wish to enter this field.


Computer Networks, which aims to advance knowledge on computer networks. Topics to be covered in this module include OSI reference model, Physical and Data Link Layer Protocols, TCP/IP Networking, IPv6, Routing Protocols, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) Networks, Packet Delay and Queuing Analysis, IP Quality of Services (Integrated Service Model and Differentiated Service Model), Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP), Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), IP Multicasting, Network Application Layer Protocols such as HTTP, DNS, SNMP.

Network Computing, which focuses on principles and techniques for network computing. Topics to be covered in this module include Object-Oriented Software Engineering, Object-Oriented Programming with Java, Network Computing Models such as Client/Server Model and Peer-to-Peer Model, Socket Programming, Remote Procedure Call (RPC), Java Remote Method Invocation (RMI), Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), Web Computing Technologies (Java Servlet, Java Server Pages), Message Exchanging with XML, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), XML based Web Services (WSDL, SOAP, UDDI).

Network Security and Encryption, which introduces the fundamental theory that enables what is achievable through the use of Security Engineering to be determined, and presents the practical techniques and algorithms that are currently important for the efficient and secure use of distributed /Grid computing systems. Topics to be covered in this module include Introduction to Security Engineering, Classical Cryptography (Monoalphabetic and Polyalphabetic Ciphers, Transposition, Substitution, Linear Transformation), Computational Fundamentals of Cryptosystems (Computational Complexity and Intractability, Modular Arithmetic and Elementary Number Theory), Modern Symmetric Key Cryptography (Feistel Ciphers, DES, Triple-DES and AES),Public Key Cryptography (The Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange Algorithm, Public Key Infrastructures, X.509 Certificates, PK Systems such as RSA and Elliptic Curves), Multilevel Security (the Bell-LaPadula Security Policy Model, the Biba Model, the NRL Pump), Multilateral Security (Compartmentation and the Lattice Model, the Chinese Wall, the BMA Model), Protecting e-Commerce Systems.

Distributed Systems Architecture, which presents a comprehensive evaluation of the design philosophies, fundamental constructs, performance issues and operational principles of distributed systems architectures, covering applications, algorithms and software architecture, engineering issues and implementation technology. Topics to be covered in this module include System Architecture (Bus Systems, High Performance I/O, Memory Hierarchies, Memory Coherence and File Coherence), Distributed Database, Processor Architecture, File Services, Inter-Process Communication, Naming Services, Resource Allocation and Scheduling, Distributed System Case Studies.

Grid Middleware Technologies, which introduces the principle, concepts and practice of Grid middleware technologies, and provides a practical knowledge on developing Grid applications. Topics to be covered in this module include Parallel Computing Paradigms, Parallel Programming with MPI/PVM, Cluster Computing Principles (Condor, Sun Grid Engine), Grid Computing Middleware Components (Job Submission, Resource Management and Job Scheduling, Information Service, Grid Portal, Grid Security Infrastructure), Grid Standards (OGSA/WSRF), Grid Middleware Case Study with Globus.

Grid System Analysis and Design, which aims to analyse representative production Grid systems and gain knowledge on how to design and optimise large-scale Grid systems. Topics to be covered in this module include System Analysis Methodologies with UML, Model Construction (Process Modelling, Static Class Modelling, Dynamic Modelling, Interface Modelling), Management of Large-Scale Grid System (Portal, Concurrent Version System (CVS)/Wiki), Grid System Analysis Case Study (GridPP, LCG/EGEE), Grid System Design (Performance Consideration, Open Standards, Design Patterns, Usability Analysis), Grid System Programming Models, Testing (Unit Testing, Integration Testing, Regression Testing), Debugging, Risk Analysis, System Maintenance.

Project Management, which introduces a range of formal methods and skills necessary to equip the student to function effectively at the higher levels of project management. Covers the need for the development of project management skills in achieving practical business objectives.

Workshop involves practical work, which is an important component of the course and gives students experience with relevant techniques and tools. Assignments are of practical nature and involve laboratory work with relevant equipment, hardware and software systems, conducted in a hands-on workshop environment. Typical assignments are:

  • TCP/IP Network Layered Protocol Analysis
  • Object-Oriented Programming, Java Socket Programming
  • Network Security and Encryption
  • Java RMI Programming for Distributed Systems
  • Grid Programming with Globus Toolkit 4 (GT4)
  • Grid System Analysis/Simulation

Dissertation, which is a stimulating and challenging part of the MSc programme. It provides the opportunity to apply the knowledge learnt in the taught part of the programme and to specialise in one aspect, developing students’ deep understanding and expertise in Distributed Systems related area of their choice. Students may carry out their projects wholly within the University, but industrial based projects are encouraged.


Distributed Computing Systems Engineering is accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).


Students graduated from the programme are in high demand from both industry and academia undertaking

  • Computer Networks Analysis, Design and Optimisation with quality-of-service support
  • Service oriented Computing Systems (XML based Web services)
  • Large Scale Distributed Systems (Grid Computing Systems)

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2014/15 entry

UK/EU students: £6,250 full-time

International students: £16,000 full-time

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Requirements

A UK first or second class honours degree or equivalent overseas qualification in Computer Science; Computer Engineering; Computing and Information Systems; Electronic Engineering; or a related subject. Other qualifications and relevant experience will be assessed on an individual basis. Basic programming skills are required.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6 (min 5.5 in all areas) 
  • TOEFL Paper test: 550 (TWE 4) PBT
  • TOEFL Internet test: 79 IBT (R18, L17, S20, W17)
  • Pearson: 51 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 60% (min 55% in all areas)

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accept a range of other language courses. We also have a range of Pre-sessional English language courses, for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a range of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.

Page last updated: Friday 06 December 2013