18-746: Storage Systems (Spring 2004)

Storage systems are among the most fascinating and the most important parts of computer systems. They often dominate the performance of a system, and their components' inner workings require amazing feats of engineering. At the same time, storage systems hold the crown jewels of most organizations: their information (from source code to Microsoft's software to the sales databases of every e-commerce site). Within the field of computer systems and computer engineering, there is no area whose demand for bright people and better solutions is more robust.

This course will cover the design, implementation, and use of storage systems, from the characteristics and operation of individual storage devices to the OS, database, and networking approaches involved in tying them together and making them useful. Along the way, we will examine several case studies of real systems, demands placed on storage systems by important applications, and impacts of trends and emerging technologies on future storage systems.

For those familiar with 18-316 (Intro. to Data Storage Systems Technology) and 18-517 (Data Storage Systems Design Project): one should consider these courses as distinct and complementary, with neither being a pre-requisite to the other. 18-316 and 18-517 focus on the low-level technologies (magnetics, materials, applied physics, etc.) whereas 18-746 focuses on storage's incorporation and role in computer systems.


  • Regular lectures by the instructor on core topics of storage systems
  • Guest lectures by experts in the field
  • Several homework problem sets
  • Midterm and final exams
  • Several project assignments (not nearly so much as 15-412, though)
  • Topics covered

    18-746 will cover a wide spectrum of system-level topics in the design, implementation, and use of storage systems. Topics covered will include:

    Books and Readings

    There will be no assigned book for the Spring 2004 offering. Instead, the instructors will hand out readings to complement the lectures. Some of these readings from books and the research literature. Others will be draft chapters of a book that the instructors are constructing to eventually be the textbook for this class. See the Lectures & Readings page for an overview of the latest plan.


    This course will require solid understanding of computer organization, basic operating systems, and basic communication. Therefore, the pre-requisite is 15-412. Exceptions are only by permission of the instructor.

    Final Note

    * Everything here is subject to change.