Course Review – Cloud Computing Applications (Roy Campbell, Reza Farivar)

Here is my review of Cloud Computing Applications course offered on Coursera in Aug-Oct 2015. Course has controversial rankings of 3 out of 5 (poor), having chosen a programming track I readily got a 100% grade. Technologies/Material: the course provides a hands-on guide on developing Big Data applications. After general cloud computing introduction, the various Big Data tools (used in Yahoo) are described in detail. Discussed are Hadoop, YARN, PIG, MapReduce framework, Storm, HBase, Spark, ZooKeeper. Mahout, Pregel, and Giraph. For each tool a theoretical foundation is given following the implementation details and the sample applications. The course, and especially the homework serves as an excellent starting point for creating own Big Data applications. Programming assignments are fully self-contained and do not require looking at any other material, which allows passing the course with spending barely 5hr per week. However, watching all the lectures (which I eventually accomplished) and taking quizzes takes another 5+hrs. The course staff experimented with various completion tracks: only quizzes, only programming assignments, and the mix of the two. The experiments backfired with some people choosing programming track and not receiving their certificates, since programming assignments are submitted without verification. Fortunately, Coursera positively resolved this issue. Instructor/lectures: Roy Campbell is a full professor at UIUC with substantial practical experience in cloud computing, while Reza Farivar is a senior software developer at Yahoo working directly on a Big Data platform. Both provide a lot of useful material. Reza is very technical and intense in his lectures, which might deter people with less experience. However, such lectures would serve as a reference guide for more experienced folks. Reza seemlessly shifts between multiple languages: Java, Scala, and Clojure, which provides an "out-of-comfort zone" immersion experience with new languages. In sum, this is one of the hardest courses, but also is one of the most useful.

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