One of the biggest challenges facing TD's is moving data from one system to another. For example, getting the nice particle animation that you have done in Houdini into Maya for rendering.
Lots of companies have bespoke solutuons to this (i.e Dneg's zen format) and there are a couple of commercial solutions too for the smaller facility that does not have an R&D department. All are not without issues.
Disney have been generous enough to release the source code for their proprietory solution (Partio) to the opensource community,which means it is now free for all of us...Yay!
This promises to address the problems we are all familiar with. it claims to be a format that can translate and transfer particle data between Maya, Houdini and RenderMan formats....complete with viewers as well...
This should help out smaller fx artists and companies to integrate the features of these major apps by simplifing the worklfows between them. Looks good on paper, but as always we should wait and see if it delivers on all it promises.