Distributed Computing
ETH Zurich

Discrete Event Systems (HS 2014)

Over the past few decades the rapid evolution of computing, communication, and information technologies has brought about the proliferation of new dynamic systems. A significant part of activity in these systems is governed by operational rules designed by humans. The dynamics of these systems are characterized by asynchronous occurrences of discrete events, some controlled (e.g. hitting a keyboard key, sending a message), some not (e.g. spontaneous failure, packet loss).

The mathematical arsenal centered around differential equations that has been employed in systems engineering to model and study processes governed by the laws of nature is often inadequate or inappropriate for discrete event systems. The challenge is to develop new modeling frameworks, analysis techniques, design tools, testing methods, and optimization processes for this new generation of systems.

In this lecture we give an introduction to discrete event systems. We start out the course by studying popular models of discrete event systems, such as automata and Petri nets. In the second part of the course we analyze discrete event systems. We first examine discrete event systems from an average-case perspective: we model discrete events as stochastic processes, and then apply Markov chains and queuing theory for an understanding of the typical behavior of a system. In the last part of the course we analyze discrete event systems from a worst-case perspective using the theory of online algorithms and adversarial queuing.

Course language: German

Lecture by Prof. Roger Wattenhofer Thursday 13.15-15.00 @ ETZ E9

Exercises by Tobias Langner, Jochen Seidel, and Klaus-Tycho-Förster, Thursday 15.15-16.45 @ ETZ E9


The exam is scheduled for Monday, 19th January 2015 from 9:00 to 12:00 @ HG F 7.

You may use any written material like scripts, your own notes, exercise sheets, books, etc...
All electronical devices (computers, calculators, cell phones, etc...) are not allowed during the exam!

Sample Exams

In order to get a feeling of our exam style, you may have a look at the exams from HS 12 or HS 10.

If you would like some more exercises, you can also have a look at even older exams: HS 08 or HS 07.
Please note that the lecture material has been updated! Thus, some of the material might no longer be covered in the current lecture and additional material has been added.

Exercise Proceedings

At the beginning of every lecture week, we will publish a new exercise sheet here. This exercise sheet is intended to be solved during the exercise session on Thursday where two tutors will be available to assist you and to answer potential questions. The exercises often require information from the lecture notes, so please make sure that you have them available in some way.

You can hand in your solutions for correction after the exercise session on a voluntary basis. This is not mandatory since a Testat is not required to be admitted to the final exam (see here for further information).

Lecture Notes

The following documents are lecture notes of former students. (We provide no guarantee that these documents are correct!)

Lecture material

Title Slides Additional Material References

Chapter 0
PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 1
Automata and Languages
PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 2
Smarter Automata
PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 3
Specification Models
PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 4
Stochastic Discrete Event Systems
PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 5
Worst Case Event Systems
PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1
Mario und Luigi

Chapter 6
Network Calculus
PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Exercise material

Title Exercise Sample Solution

Exercise 1
Assigned: 16/09/2014
Due: 18/09/2014
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Exercise 2
Assigned: 22/09/2014
Due: 25/09/2014
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Exercise 3
Assigned: 01/10/2014
Due: 3/10/2014
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Exercise 4
Assigned: 09/10/2014
Due: 09/10/2014
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Exercise 5
Assigned: 09/10/2014
Due: 16/10/2014
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Exercise 6
Assigned: 20/10/2014
Due: 23/10/2014
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Exercise 7
Assigned: 24/10/2014
Due: 30/10/2014
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Exercise 8
Assigned: 31/10/2014
Due: 06/11/2014
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Exercise 9
Assigned: 10/11/2014
Due: 13/11/2014
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Exercise 10
Assigned: 13/11/2014
Due: 20/11/2014
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Exercise 11
Assigned: 21/11/2014
Due: 27/11/2014
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Exercise 12
Assigned: 01/12/2014
Due: 04/12/2014
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Exercise 13
Assigned: 08/12/2014
Due: 11/12/2014
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Exercise 14
Assigned: 08/12/2014
Due: 18/12/2014
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Exercise 15
Assigned: 18/12/2014
Due: 18/12/2014
Download Download Petri Nets
(Exercise will not be discussed in class)


You do not need a Testat to attend the final exam. However, if you need a Testat, e.g. because you don't intend to take the final exam, but need an attestation that you attended the class, you need to hand in at least 80% of the exercises.


[exorciser] Exorciser - Interaktive Lernsoftware für theoretische Informatik
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Dimitri Bertsekas, Robert Gallager.
Prentice Hall, 1991, ISBN: 0132009161
[borodin] Online Computation and Competitive Analysis
Allan Borodin, Ran El-Yaniv.
Cambridge University Press, 1998
[boudec] Network Calculus
J.-Y. Le Boudec, P. Thiran.
Springer, 2001
[cassandras] Introduction to Discrete Event Systems
Christos Cassandras, Stephane Lafortune.
Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, ISBN 0-7923-8609-4
[fiat] Online Algorithms: The State of the Art
A. Fiat and G. Woeginger.
[hochbaum] Approximation Algorithms for NP-hard Problems (Chapter 13 by S. Irani, A. Karlin)
D. Hochbaum.
[murata] Petri Nets: Properties, Analysis and Applications
Tadao Murata.
Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 99, issue 4, April 1989. pp. 541--580
[schickinger] Diskrete Strukturen (Band 2: Wahrscheinlichkeitstheorie und Statistik)
T. Schickinger, A. Steger.
Springer, Berlin, 2001
[sipser] Introduction to the Theory of Computation
Michael Sipser.
PWS Publishing Company, 1996, ISBN 053494728X
[baier] Principles of Model Checking
Christel Baier and Joost-Pieter Katoen.
MIT Press