Earth with clouds above the African continent
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SaaS companies find silver lining in climate change

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: inside the growing market for climate-data-reporting software, Microsoft and Google back a new plan for better open-source security and the grocery store that’s 3D-printing robots.

Spin up

New interest in cloud services among health care companies was a significant factor behind Oracle’s $28.3 billion acquisition of Cerner, and that interest appears to be growing. A survey of health care IT executives last year found that nearly 10% are “all in” on the public cloud, with 60% planning on using a hybrid cloud approach to keep some patient data on premises, according to HealthDataManagement.com.

Sustainability software is booming

Just like the earth, the market for climate-reporting software is heating up.

A company’s approach to sustainability can make or break its investment prospects, as shareholders have made it overwhelmingly clear over the past few years. In response, companies have been scrambling for ways to collect, aggregate and report environmental data to their investors.

  • In the first six months of 2021 alone, investors spent more than $570 million on environmental data startups.
  • Last year JPMorgan bought ESG startup OpenInvest, and Blackstone acquired sustainability software Sphera for $1.4 billion.
  • At the beginning of 2022 IBM acquired environmental data startup Envizi, and SAP launched new products to enhance its sustainability outcomes measurements.
  • The cloud giants aren’t new to the rodeo either: ServiceNow, Salesforce and Microsoft all have burgeoning sustainability offerings.
  • The market driver for all this activity is not as much about goodwill as it is about money, as BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote in a recent letter: “We focus on sustainability not because we're environmentalists, but because we are capitalists,” he wrote.

But there’s a data problem: Wrangling emissions data from disparate sources and reporting it out in a way that resonates with investors is harder than it seems.

  • “The volume of information is really vast and their information is fundamentally unstructured,” explained Reinhilde Weidacher, head of ESG Data Strategy at Institutional Shareholder Services.
  • In the industrial sector for one, there aren’t a lot of sensors, monitors and meters capable of capturing sustainability data in the first place.
  • Then comes the challenge of aggregating data that could reside across multiple refineries or chemical sites, and include everything from carbon emissions and land use to water use and renewable content.
  • Compounding all this is the anticipation that investors will want to see sustainability reports more frequently.
  • “If you can only track it once a year, how are you going to take corrective actions? How are you going to operationalize it?” asked IBM’s Kareem Yusuf.

There’s still room to grow. The scale of these unsolved challenges mean the market for environmental data isn’t cooling off anytime soon.

  • It won’t be surprising if more SaaS companies acquire startups that can help them wrangle environmental data this year – especially as markets have contracted and valuations have lowered.
  • Already, emerging technologies are being explored as answers to the data problem: IBM is exploring blockchain-based capabilities to help verify indirect emissions, NGOs are using drones to analyze methane emissions, and ISS is applying machine learning and NLP to mine large environmental data sets.

Regardless of how companies enter the environmental data market, it won’t be easy. Expectations are high, scrutiny is intense and the standards are complicated. And it’s not enough for enterprises to say they’re sustainable anymore — now they have to prove it.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM DATAIKU

Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and doers, enabling anyone to transform data into real business results — from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so much, but there's no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it's just data.

Learn more

Attacking the head and the tail of open-source security

Weeks after the White House gathered the top companies and organizations in open-source software to discuss better ways to secure open-source projects, the OpenSSF unveiled a new effort to tackle this serious problem.

The Alpha-Omega Project will launch with $5 million contributions from both Microsoft and Google to “improve the security posture of open source software through direct engagement of software security experts and automated security testing,” the division of the Linux Foundation said Tuesday. The idea is to identify and secure the most important open-source projects (Alpha) as well as the “long tail” of open-source projects (Omega) through a combination of automated code scanning, human review and better reporting processes.

The amount of money involved is a rounding error for both Big Cloud companies and likely won’t satisfy those calling for more-direct compensation for maintainers of open-source projects, a surprising number of whom are unpaid volunteers. Still, if the OpenSSF can establish a process for finding and fixing the enormous number of projects at the heart of so much commercial and government software, there will be more money down the road.


— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)

Buying local (from 3D-printed robots)

As more and more people get their groceries delivered with little human interaction, tech-centric retail services companies like the U.K.’s Ocado Group aim to incorporate more AI and robotics into order fulfillment.

3D printers will even help build the robot parts. Robots featuring 3D-printed components will pick products inside existing, local distribution centers that incorporate Ocado’s proprietary packing grid system. “Known as the Series 600, the new bot will feature around 300 3D printed parts, resulting in a significantly reduced overall weight, cheaper build and running costs, and better serviceability,” reported The Engineer.

Expect what the Brits euphemistically call “redundancies.” The robots and updated fulfillment process will reduce labor costs by as much as 40% in the long term and remove “some of the most physically demanding jobs,” according to Ocado CEO Tim Steiner, as reported by The Stack.

Of course, AI helps run the distro centers, too. The company will operate the updated process with its own grocery fulfillment software, also used by grocery retailers across the globe.

— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Google Cloud revenue grew 45% in the fourth quarter to $5.54 billion, although it lost $890 million, an improvement over last year’s $1.14 billion loss but worse than its third-quarter performance.

AMD’s data-center group revenue doubled as its renaissance continued with one of the best quarters in the company’s history.

Docker is on a $50 million-a-year revenue run rate two years after it sold its enterprise business to Mirantis and refocused on developer tools.

MariaDB will go public via a SPAC transaction that values the open-source database company at $672 million.

Figma launched an enterprise version of its design collaboration tool that gives administrators more control over permissions and roles.

A MESSAGE FROM DATAIKU

Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and doers, enabling anyone to transform data into real business results — from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so much, but there's no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it's just data.

Learn more

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