What is procedural dataflow modelling
Procedural dataflow modelling is a procedural approach to creating parametric models. It allows designers to to efficiently explore alternative forms without having to manually build each different version of the design model for each scenario. Such systems are used by architects and engineers to automate the design processes and accelerate design iterations.
The dataflow approach may be familiar if you have used programs like Bentley's Microstation Generative Components and McNeel's Rhino Grasshopper. In these cases, plugins have been created for standard CAD packages in order to enable users to work with the dataflow modelling approach. In the case of Houdini, the dataflow approach has always been at the core of the whole software, and everything that you do is controlled by dataflow networks
What is Houdini
Houdini is a high-end 3D CAD and animation software. Historically, Houdini's main strength has been its particle animation system. Houdini chief distinction from other packages is its use of the procedural dataflow approach not just for modelling, but for for all tasks including animation, rendering, and compositing. Houdini's approach to dataflow modelling is more sophisticated than either Grasshopper or GenerativeComponents. This means that Houdini is a little harder to learn at first, bit it scales better as more complex tasks are undertaken.