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SAP and VMware have everything to prove

February 4, 2015, 4:24 PM UTC
EMC World 2011 Conference
Pat Gelsinger, president and chief operating officer of EMC Corp., gives a keynote speech at the EMC World conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, May 9, 2011. EMC Corp., the world's biggest maker of storage computers, reported a 28 percent gain in first-quarter profit last month as companies increased spending on data centers capable of delivering tasks through the Internet. Photographer: Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Ronda Churchill — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Normally I refrain from writing about new products, but there were two significant introductions early this week that represent make-or-break moments for the companies behind them, SAP and VMware. Here’s what you need to know.

SAP: Use our database, or else

Once upon a time, SAP’s resource planning, supply chain software, and other business management applications relied on Oracle’s platform. Then, the latter company coveted those markets, too. The two have been drifting apart for years, but the ties were severed (once and for all?) this week with SAP’s latest, massive software overhaul. Now, businesses will have to run them using SAP’s own database technology, HANA. (That awkward acronym officially stands for High-Performance Analytic Appliance.)

The storyline is that HANA will help SAP’s applications run faster than ever. The company’s new buddy in this quest is IBM, which is host to the cloud edition. Considering the rather lukewarm reception for HANA so far, this is a pretty bold decision. CEO Bill McDermott is pretty confident.

He recently told Fortune:

“I don’t think a lot of people have fully comprehended that HANA is the de facto standard in-memory platform for OLAP and OLTP. And that is the only database in the world that can do transactions, analytics, and all the unstructured stuff like social. And it’s gonna blow everybody away. There’s no shot! We win this. We’re going to win this thing. And now we’re at the top of the hill cruising down.”

We won’t know the moral of this story for some time, but SAP is expecting the industry’s transition to cloud-delivered software to be a drag on its profits through 2017. So, the clock is ticking.

VMware seeks deeper relevance

Virtual server software—which lets businesses consolidate under-utilized server hardware—used to be this company’s most important product. Moving forward, though, VMware (VMW) wants to convince more customers to invest in its vSphere data center management software.

The overhaul launched this week includes features directly competitive with products from EMC, which owns 80% of VMware’s stock. VMware’s updated mission: help control all of the components in their data center—including networking gear, data storage arrays, and computing servers—rather than just concentrating on the virtualized stuff. There’s also that little matter of being able to support the cloud services more companies are using to handle applications and processes.

Here’s the requisite proclamation from VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger: “Today, we are taking another leap forward in helping our customers meet these demands through a unified platform, defined in software, which will offer unmatched choice and extends out innovation across compute, networking and storage to deliver the hybrid cloud.”

Lots of buzzwords to sort. The key takeaway is that VMware needs to watch its back for innovators in software-defined networking and converged infrastructure. That’s especially true, given that EMC and Cisco, once close partners in this market, are now addressing it separately.

There are also many newcomers winning attention. One notable example is Nutanix, which disclosed Wednesday that it has now signed up 1,200 customers for technology that converges the functions of networking gear, storage devices, and servers. Reference accounts include Best Buy, eBay, Hyundai, and Staples. At least 50 of those organizations have bought more than $1 million worth of Nutanix gear.

For the second quarter (ended Jan. 31), Nutanix reports that its annualized bookings run rate topped $300 million. Hmmm. When privately held companies start publishing quarterly updates on sales, formal IPO plans often aren’t far behind. So far, Nutanix has raised about $312 million; its valuation is in the $2 billion zone.

Correction, Feb. 4, 2015: An earlier version of this article stated that Hewlett-Packard is a Nutanix customer. It is not, and the company misspoke.

This item first appeared in the Feb. 4 edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the business of technology. Sign up here.