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Q&A with Eric Alterman: Flow Corporation's Cloud-based Real-time Data Platform

Today, Flow Corporation announced the launch of its Flow Platform, a cloud-based platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution.  The latest news around the Flow Platform release can be found here. 

But in order to learn more and to get a first hand view into the company, I spoke with Eric Alterman, Flow Corporation's CEO and founder.  Eric, if you would, please give us an update on the company and tell us about the latest release of the Flow Platform.

Eric Alterman:  Flow Corporation is a big data company that provides real-time information solutions for enterprises, media companies, and developers at and for consumers at

Flow Corporation just announced the Flow Platform, a cloud-based platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that greatly simplifies the development of real-time applications, while enabling powerful stream processing, data-routing and information interoperability between mobile, web, and enterprise applications. The Flow Platform provides developers of all skill levels unprecedented capabilities to quickly and affordably create, aggregate, filter, process, route, and share real-time data streams with minimal coding effort.

For enterprise customers the Flow provides an on-demand solution for real-time data aggregation, interoperability and information routing such that the right people see the right information in real-time, via any mobile or web interface. We believe real-time information workflows will define next generation collaboration, customer interactions and business intelligence.  What differentiates the Flow Platform from other information solutions already available on the market?  And what issues does the Flow Platform address?

Alterman:  The Flow Platform is the only cloud-based real-time architecture available that enables permissioned real-time data aggregation, processing, and sharing across one or many applications, whether within your enterprise, between your own applications, or among third-party developers. Unlike other real-time solutions, Flow streams are contextual, not social, and carry data structures and granular permissions defined with mission-specific purpose. Also unique to the Flow, data moving between streams can be transformed, redacted, filtered and routed using a technology we call "tracks".

Especially for enterprise customers and mobile developers the Flow Platform addresses the challenge of handling real-time data across many people and applications, from any number of sources. Real-time enterprise workflow and data interoperability are traditionally hard, expensive problems to solve - the Flow dramatically lowers the barrier to entry with an on-demand, cloud-based system and requires no "big data" or real-time experience.  How does the Flow platform help developers build big data applications?

Alterman:  The Flow Platform provides a faster, more cost-efficient development path, offering a first opportunity to build in days or weeks what might have been impossible to do without its powerful stream processing capabilities. Developers now have an off-the-shelf tool set that grants seamless access to real-time data from diverse sources, including mobile, web, and enterprise applications.

Our developer platform and APIs (REST, XMPP) make it easy to manually and programmatically build contextual streams, define data structures and permissions, publish or import any data source, from Tweets to legacy enterprise data, to any stream, aggregate multiple streams, process streams (filtering, transforming or routing real-time data), manually or automatically curate streams, and to publish streams to any enterprise, mobile or desktop interface.  What kind of features does the Flow Platform provide for companies that are interested in real-time application development?

Alterman:  The Flow Platform provides an instant, scalable, and real-time data backend (Sandbox, REST, XMPP), as well as on-demand stream processing tools for aggregation, filtering, joining, transforming, enriching and routing data. Additionally, the on-demand platform pushes contextual data to mobile, web, and desktop clients. Customers can also share permissioned data and interoperability without requiring polling mechanisms.  What are the benefits and challenges of creating applications with real-time data?

Alterman:  The next generation of great enterprise and consumer applications will be defined by their ability to intelligently access real-time data from many sources to enhance their effectiveness. Enterprises are already hungry for real-time processes that inform their employees and customers with highly contextual information in real-time, as compared to "stove-piped" or batch-oriented processing. The purpose of real-time in the enterprise is to intelligently capture the actual workflow of an organization such that the real-time world presents opportunities, not information overload. On the consumer side, mobile apps will simultaneously access real-time data from many other mobile and web sources to provide end-users "oh wow" experiences that go well beyond great interface design-single purpose applications and data silos will certainly decline in value.

Traditional technologies do not map well to real-time data challenges and require implementations that are costly, time-consuming and rigid. Creating real-time data interoperability between legacy and new applications and defining an intelligent data workflow is a problem that requires a system level solution. The Flow is the first cloud-based platform designed to help enterprises and independent developers take advantage of real-time solutions and data interoperability opportunities in an incremental, extensible fashion, without the expense and risks associated with year-long RFP processes and one-off custom implementations.  You've mentioned that the next generation of applications will ‘curate' real-time data streams to bring new end-user experiences. Can you give us examples of these types of applications?

Alterman:  Whether enterprise applications or mobile applications, "curation" is a word we use to describe the ability to both manually (drag-and-drop) and programmatically access information from many sources. Media companies must aggregate content from many internal and external properties to properly use and reuse content produced and stored in different contexts. For that type of application the Flow Platform, combined with our SaaS application, provides what we call a "real-time CMS" for both technical people and non-technical editorial staff-a kind of "mixing board" for managing real-time content. For enterprises, applications and people must have the ability to filter, route, order and prioritize information such that it is consumable. "Curation" is word that describes a process by which the messy real-time world is harnessed into tributaries of contextual information that are consumable and actionable.


Thanks again to Eric Alterman, Flow Corporation's CEO and founder, for speaking with me and answering these questions.  You can find out more information about Flow Corporation and their products at the company's Web site.

Published Wednesday, March 14, 2012 5:20 PM by David Marshall
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