Distributed Computing
ETH Zurich

Discrete Event Systems (HS 2015)

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 queueing 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 queueing.

Course language: English and German

Lecture by Prof. Lothar Thiele, Prof. Laurent Vanbever, and Prof. Roger Wattenhofer, Thursday 13.15-15.00 @ ETZ E9, starting 17.09.2015.

Exercises by Georg Bachmeier, Klaus-Tycho Förster, Jochen Seidel, Romain Jacob, and A. El-Hassany, Thursday 15.15-16.45 @ ETZ E9

Old Exams

If you would like some more exercises, you can also have a look at older exams (some with solutions):
HS 12, HS 11, HS 10, HS 09, HS 08 or HS 07.
Please note that the lecture material has been updated this year!
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 material

Title Lecturer Slides Additional Material References

Chapter 0
Introduction to Automata and Languages
Prof. Vanbever PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 1
Automata and Languages
Prof. Vanbever PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 2
Non-regular Languages and Context Free Grammars
Prof. Vanbever PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 3
Non-regular Languages and Context Free Grammars II
Prof. Vanbever PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 4
Turing Machines and More
Prof. Vanbever PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 5
Markov Chains & PageRank
Prof. Wattenhofer PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 6
Queueing Theory
Prof. Wattenhofer PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 7
Worst Case Event Systems
Prof. Wattenhofer PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1
Mario und Luigi

Chapter 8
Verification of Finite Automata I
Prof. Thiele PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Chapter 9
Petri Nets I
Prof. Thiele PDF 1:1
PDF 4:1

Exercise material

Title Exercise Sample Solution

Exercise 1
Assigned: 16/09/2015
Due: 17/09/2015
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Exercise 2
Assigned: 23/09/2015
Due: 24/09/2015
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Exercise 3
Assigned: 30/09/2015
Due: 1/10/2015
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Exercise 4
Assigned: 07/10/2015
Due: 08/10/2015
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Exercise 5
Assigned: 14/10/2015
Due: 15/10/2015
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Exercise 6
Assigned: 22/10/2015
Due: 22/10/2015
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Exercise 7
Assigned: 29/10/2015
Due: 29/10/2015
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Exercise 8
Assigned: 03/11/2015
Due: 05/11/2015
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Exercise 9
Assigned: 11/11/2015
Due: 12/11/2015
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Exercise 10
Assigned: 17/11/2015
Due: 19/11/2015
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Exercise 11
Assigned: 23/11/2015
Due: 26/11/2015
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Exercise 12
Assigned: 30/11/2015
Due: 03/12/2015
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Exercise 13
Assigned: 07/12/2015
Due: 10/12/2015
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Exercise 14
Assigned: 16/12/2015
Due: 17/12/2015
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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.


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Michael Sipser.
PWS Publishing Company, 1996, ISBN 053494728X
[baier] Principles of Model Checking
Christel Baier and Joost-Pieter Katoen.
MIT Press