UIUC MCS - CS 498 Review - Cloud Computing Applications

UIUC MCS - CS 498 Review - Cloud Computing Applications

Computer Science 498 covers broad range of topics from cloud computing and virtualization to big data in the cloud.


4 min read


  • TLDR: 498 Cloud Computing is a high-workload class with practical assignments that provide a solid basis for understanding the cloud.

  • Difficulty: Medium

  • Opinion: Enjoyed

  • Weekly workload: 10 hours (3-4 for lectures, 6ish for MPs)

  • Semester: Spring 2023

Class Content

Lecture Content

This class is a comprehensive survey-like course that covers a vast range of topics and has many lectures throughout the semester. Topics covered include Cloud economics, Cloud Communication, Virtual Private Clouds, Serverless Computing, MapReduce, Data Storage, Cloud Databases, Large Scale Data Storage, Cloud Based Analytics, Big Data, Graphs, ML, Data Streaming, Virtualization, Containerization, Container Orchestration, and Architecting Cloud Applications. This is a crazy amount of content, so don't expect to become an expert in these topics.

Overall, the lectures were informative and well-structured, providing a high-level understanding of the subject matter. However, lectures often became monotonous, and I struggled to stay engaged. Some weeks had over 4+ lecture hours, and I often watched at 1.5x speed to keep the pace up.

Despite this occasional boredom, I still found the lectures highly beneficial. I'm a software engineer, and the material leveled up my cloud understanding. I believe that of the courses offered in the MCS program, this is the most practical one for software engineers.

Outside of the lectures, 14 weekly quizzes make up a total of 14% of the final grade. Each quiz was worth 1%, and the quizzes only cover the material taught in the particular week, which allowed me to review and reinforce my understanding of the concepts. The quizzes can be taken an unlimited number of times which was nice for increasing understanding, but very nice for a low-pressure way to improve grades. So far every class I've taken in this Master's program has had weekly quizzes with unlimited attempts, and I appreciate the low-pressure stakes.


There were 12 MPs. MPs were 55% of the final grade. Some MPs were completed on AWS, and some locally in Docker containers. MP instructions and the autograder could be unclear at times, but the Campuswire forums were active, and I could get misunderstandings cleared up quickly.

MPs covered topics like MapReduce, Spark, SparkSQL, HBase, Apache Storm, Virtualization, and AWS services like Load Balancer, ElastiCache, Lambda, and Aurora.

I couldn't acquire any AWS education credits (I don't think they offer them anymore, or maybe I had previously used them all I'm not sure), so I was on the hook to pay for any cloud expenses. To keep costs down, I would try to complete the AWS MPs in just one sitting or terminate any instances in between sessions. Most of the MPs could be completed on small resources keeping costs down, and I spent just a few dollars on resources over the whole semester.


There were two exams, a midterm and a final. Unfortunately, they were hosted on the dreaded ProctorU. For privacy reasons, I detest taking exams with ProctorU, but there was no way around it for this class.

The midterm and final cover almost anything from each half of the term, even extremely obscure content only mentioned once. You will need strong memorization skills and good notes to do well. Thankfully, each exam was 15% and all multiple choice, so the stakes weren't too high.

My Takeaways

I enjoyed this class and learned a lot. I think I could confidently have conversations about almost every cloud computing topic. I couldn't talk in crazy technical depth, but the breadth of this course has made me far more comfortable with the cloud. I think this class is a good springboard for learning more about specific cloud topics or studying for cloud certifications.

Since cloud computing is ubiquitous at this point, I would recommend this course to everyone in the MCS program.

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More Reviews

Check out uiucmcs.org for more reviews of MCS courses. I don't know who maintains this site, but it's a good review collection from many semesters.

I have also written up a CS 427 review and CS 435 review.

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