SAP has acquired a small California software vendor in a move to enhance the data integration capabilities in its business software.

The German software giant has bought Callixa, a San Francisco developer of enterprise information integration software, said Shai Agassi, head of SAP's products and technology group and a member of its executive board, in an interview Tuesday. The deal closed about three months ago, he said but SAP had not discussed it publicly before.

Callixa was considered something of a pioneer in its field until three of its senior staff were killed in te 9/ll attack in New Your. The company closed its doors for a time before reopening and eventually seeking a buyer.

SAP bought Callixa for its distributed query processing technology, Agassi said. The technology enables developers to write a query that can be distributed among different databases and other data stores, gathering information and sending it back to the application in a single, unified response.

"You might send a query saying, 'Give me all the customers in San Jose and the total purchases they made in the last 10 years,'" Agassi said. The query is broken into parts, searches the various data sources in parallel and returns a single response.

SAP currently licenses a distributed query technology from MetaMatrix. SAP wants to embed the technology more deeply in its products and so it made more sense to acquire a company, Agassi said. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

At some point SAP may bundle Callixa's technology with its business intelligence software, portal software and business applications, with a view to providing developers with the distributed query capabilities, said Dina Bitton, Callixa's former chief technology officer, now a vice president with SAP Labs.

Queries can be written in SQL code or using the ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) or JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) programming interfaces, she said.

"You define a view across any number of data sources, mostly relational databases but also files, XML sources, legacy systems, all types of sources," she said. "Once you have defined a view you have a distributed query engine, which executes the query against that view. So the [SAP] application interacts with Callixa as if it were doing a single query."

The technology is important because companies increasingly are storing information in different types of specialized data stores, according to Agassi. "The general sense was that we're seeing the fragmentation of the single, unified data store into multiple, dedicated stores," he said.

Agassi praised MetaMatrix's technology but said SAP will eventually phase out its use in favour of Callixa. "This is a core technology that needs to disappear inside our stack," he said.

MetaMatrix said the SAP partnership was significant, but provided only a small portion of its revenue. Losing the OEM agreement will not affect its ability to develop its products or support its customers, said Craig Muzilla, MetaMatrix senior vice president of marketing. "We knew eventually that this would become a strategic component for SAP and as such we knew they would eventually need to own it or develop it in house," he said.