San Jose, Calif.-BEA Systems said Monday that it has entered into a wide-ranging agreement with Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., to further develop and promote BEA's e-commerce applications. The two companies will work to optimize the performance of BEA's software with Intel's latest software chip, which is being branded under the name Itanium. The deal is significant because it gives BEA a market advantage in selling application-server software, a highly competitive industry that includes the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp. E-business sales are an important part of an information technology spend, particularly because of the usefulness to sales and marketing departments. Increasingly, this software is being used to provide the underpinnings for such real-time Internet applications as sales-force support, marketing and promotions for resellers and distributors. BEA ranks first in sales of these products with 18% of the market, followed by IBM (15%) and Sun (8%). Intel's forte has been in providing the chips for cheaper application servers that are appropriate for smaller companies, and priced accordingly. Of late, it has been pushing for higher-end server sales with hardware that runs on its Itanium chip. An alliance with BEA gives it a chance to compete with such dominant players for high-end server sales as Sun, Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, analysts said.This fall, BEA will release business applications using Intel's Itanium chip. Compaq Computer Corp. and Dell Computer Corp., among others, have said they will sell and support the new BEA/Intel products. It could help drive down the budgets of marketers and sales executives planning real-time sales and marketing e-business applications, analysts said.