CMSC 411 - Computer Systems Architecture

Hello! Welcome to the Spring 2024 edition of CMSC 411 at UMD CS!

Administrative Information

Description and topics

This course reviews the fundamentals of computer system architecture design. In this course, we will learn how the processor cores work, how these cores access memory, and how they work together in a multicore chip. We will also cover some system level topics such as storage systems and fault-tolerant design.

This course will cover the following topics (subject to change):


Communication and discussion forums

For communication and sharing resources we will be using:

Material and textbooks

This course is mainly based on the Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach book by Hennessy and Patterson. You may use either of the following versions:

Evaluation (subject to change)

Tentative schedule

Week Date Lesson Released Due Comments
1 01/24/2024 Logistics + Introduction to Computer Architecture HW0
2 01/29/2024 Performance Metrics HW1 (1/31) HW0 (1/30 at 11:59pm)
2 01/31/2024 Pipelining
3 02/05/2024 -- No Class
3 02/07/2024 Branch Prediction (Part 1) Vitual
4 02/12/2024 Branch Prediction (Part 2) | Project 1 Q&A PRJ 1
4 02/14/2024 Instruction Level Parallelism (ILP)
5 02/19/2024 Dynamic Instruction Scheduling (Part 1)
5 02/21/2024 Practice Questions
6 02/26/2024 Dynamic Instruction Scheduling (Part 2)
6 02/28/2024 Interrupts, Exceptions, and Memory Dependencies HW2 (3/1) HW1 (3/1 at 11:59pm)
7 03/04/2024 Compiler ILP Techniques (part 1)
7 03/06/2024 Compiler ILP Techniques (part 2) PRJ 2 PRJ 1
8 03/11/2024 Virtual Memory
8 03/13/2024 Midterm
9 03/18/2024 Spring Break No Class
9 03/20/2024 Spring Break No Class
10 03/25/2024 Cache (Part 1)
10 03/27/2024 Cache (Part 2) | Project 2 Q&A
11 04/01/2024 Cache (Part 3)
11 04/03/2024 Cache Practice Questions
12 04/08/2024 Memory HW3 HW2
12 04/10/2024 Cache Coherence (Part 1)
13 04/15/2024 Cache Coherence (Part 2) PRJ 3 PRJ 2
13 04/17/2024 Cache Coherence (Part 3) | Project 3 Q&A
14 04/22/2024 Multiprocessing and Multithreading
14 04/24/2024 Reliability (part 1)
15 04/29/2024 Reliability (part 2)
15 05/01/2024 HW2 review and Practice Questions
16 05/06/2024 Consistency
16 05/08/2024 Advanced topics HW 3, PRJ 3

Final Exam

Final exam dates and times are determined by the campus and are posted online.

Disabilities Support Accommodations

In case academic accommodations are needed, you must provide a letter of accommodation from the Office of Accessibility and Disability Services (ADS) within the first two weeks of the semester. For details, see the section titled “Accessibility” available at Course Related Policies.

Mask Policy

Please check the latest campus policies regarding COVID protocols:

Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty includes not only cheating, fabrication, and plagiarism, but also includes helping other students commit acts of academic dishonesty by allowing them to obtain copies of your work. In short, all submitted work must be your own. Cases of academic dishonesty will be pursued to the fullest extent possible as stipulated by the Office of Student Conduct.

It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. If the student is found to be responsible of academic dishonesty, the typical sanction results in a special grade “XF”, indicating that the course was failed due to academic dishonesty. If you have any doubt as to whether an act of yours might constitute academic dishonesty, please contact your TA or the course coordinator.

The CS Department takes academic integrity seriously. Information on how the CS Department views and handle academic integrity matters can be found at Academic Integrity.

A few examples of academic integrity violations

Additional information can be found in the sections titled “Academic Integrity” and “Code of Student Conduct” available at Course Related Policies.

For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Office of Student Conduct, visit

Excused Absences

If you need to be excused for an absence from a single lecture due to a medical reason, you shall make a reasonable attempt to inform the instructor of your illness prior to the class. Upon returning to the class, you will present with a self-signed note attesting to the date of your illness. Each note must contain an acknowledgment by the student that the information provided is true and correct. Providing false information to University officials is prohibited under Part 9(i) of the Code of Student Conduct (V-1.00(B) University of Maryland Code of Student Conduct) and may result in disciplinary action.

Missing an exam for reasons such as illness, religious observance, participation in required university activities, or family or personal emergency (such as a serious automobile accident or close relative’s funeral) will be excused so long as the absence is requested in writing in advance and the student includes documentation that shows the absence qualifies as excused.

A self-signed note is not sufficient for exams because they are Major Scheduled Grading Events. In the case of medical absence, you must furnish documentation from the health care professional who treated you. The documentation must clearly include verification of (1) treatment dates and (2) the time period for which the student is unable to meet academic responsibilities. In addition, it must contain the name and phone number of the medical service provider to be used if verification is needed. No diagnostic information will ever be requested. Note that simply being seen by a health care professional does not constitute an excused absence; it must be clear that you were unable to perform your academic duties.

For additional details, see the section titled “Attendance and Missed Assignments” available at Course Related Policies.


All course materials are copyright UMCP, Department of Computer Science © 2022. All rights reserved. Students are permitted to use course materials for their own personal use only. Course materials may not be distributed publicly or provided to others (excepting other students in the course), in any way or format.

Although every effort has been made to be complete and accurate, unforeseen circumstances arising during the semester could require the adjustment of any material given here. Consequently, given due notice to students, the instructor reserves the right to change any information on this syllabus or in other course materials.


If you have any class concerns, please feel free to contact the instructor. If an issue arises with the instructor, report it using the form available at

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