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Spiceworks: Quick-and-Easy, Free, Ad-supported Systems Management

Discovered Devices

I talked with Spiceworks today, the Austin company that just opened a public beta of it’s quick-and-easy systems management platform. They have a Rails based web application that you download for free, run on your behind-the-firewall network, and “pay for” by seeing Google text ads in the side bar. That is, they’re free and supported by ads. I brain-stormed on ads behind-the-firewall last year for a bit, so it’s exciting to see someone trying it, esp. in systems management.

Quite interesting, huh?

The Growing Pool

Versiera, of course, pops to mind as a competitor, as does FiveRuns (I still don’t have the complete scoop on FiveRuns, but check out these screenshots). So far, Spiceworks looks the slickest. Interestingly, both FiveRuns and Spiceworks are funded by Austin Ventures. The conspiracy theorist in me is saying that Spiceworks and FiveRuns could be put on a “sliding scale of management,” as we used to call it at BMC.


Their target is companies of 250 people (or devices) or less. Spiceworks doesn’t currently do any management, it just monitors for things like software installed, anti-virus software usage, disk space available, the up/down status of services (Windows and otherwise), the up/down status of devices, and a couple other “there or not there” checks.

While they were explicit about being for “small business” — not even the Medium in SMB — that limitation is more a matter of scale leanness. Scaling limitations aside (the ceiling was officially 250 devices, and anecdotally 350-500), after adding a few missing features — esp. sending emails/pages and historic reporting — they’d work quite well for any IT shop that just cares about uptime monitoring.

The fact that they’re free and install extremely quickly compared to other systems management platforms makes them well worth looking into if you manage any IT, even your home network. I installed it on Kim’s ThinkPad, and after opening up the web app’s port in the Windows firewall, I had could access it in Firefox on the PowerBook. The out-of-the-box experience is great.

Taking Advantage of Low Barriers to Entry

With such low barriers to entry, it’d seem like an open source or open API approach would help pull in some collaborative development. Currently, their community collaboration with is based on submitting bug reports and feature requests to their forms. They’ve implemented a “Spicy/Bland” rating on each forum topic so users can vote up or vote down fixing a bug and implementing a feature. That’s a great move.

Opening up the platform even more would pull in a whole new channel of collaboration. And, since it’s Ruby and Rails based, there’s a great community that’s into “after hours” coding fun. Indeed, since it is written in Ruby, all of the code is in plain view, so people could start doing that without the blessings of Spiceworks…unless they’ve obfuscated the code or otherwise locked it down (I didn’t check).

There’s also an interesting chance, as I suggested, to do some collaborative systems management with SplunkBase.


I’ll have more to say in the briefing blog write-up. Also, you can see my notes/mindmap on the briefing and several screenshots I took of my Spiceworks install.

Update: see my briefing note as well.

Disclaimer: BMC is a client.

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Categories: Community, Systems Management.

Comment Feed

9 Responses

  1. Hi Michael,

    First let me apologize for not having briefed you on FiveRuns already. We've been swamped with beta requests (nearing or over 1000) and have been running full bore. So far, things have been going very well.

    As far as Spiceworks and FiveRuns, there's been no collaboration to-date although our offerings at the moment are more complementary than competitive. As best I know, they're targeting desktop / device management at a macro-level so-to-speak and we're taking a more traditional systems management tact in terms of capability (full stack support). Our initial offering will be performance and availability monitoring as well as event managemenet for a variety of open source and commercial offerings including Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X Server, Windows, Tomcat, Apache, JBoss, MySQL, Oracle, and Rails at the application level, which I believe will be the first such commercial offering.

    We'll be GA'ing our product at LinuxWorld the week of August 14th and I'd love to give you a sneek peak the week of August 7th if your schedule permits. Of course, the latter half of the week would be better for us. 🙂

    Thanks and thank you for the interest you've shown in our company.

    Steven Smith

    CEO, FiveRuns

    P.S. Regarding the screenshots you found, so much for a "private" beta, eh? 🙂

  2. No need to apologize, I know you guys have been busy and focusing on the actual running software and users. I can't slight a company for paying attention to those things over analysts ;>
    And to be fair, Dave has answered my pesterings, even on vacation in the now blazingly hot UK.
    And, yes, I do agree that FiveRuns and Spiceworks are more complementary than competitive. There is that gray-zone between how much people need, but to be frank, taking on the mind-set of an IT guy, it'd be nice to have tow clear-cut products for "I just want the simplest thing possile" (Spiceworks) to "I want to take care of things in more detail, but still in a non-complex way" (FiveRuns).
    Of course, there are plenty of other people going for either, or both, of those desire-clusters ;&;
    For a briefing, and time on Aug. 10th or 11th would be fine with me.

  3. the tool is really slick. REALLY slick. RoR

  4. Have you checked out Nagios and or webmin? da.. fine stuff.

    ed markhamJuly 27, 2006 @ 7:10 pm
  5. I haven’t checked them out fully yet, but I definitly will. I even got a Nagios book, so that should be helpful.

  6. Whoo, Cote! Nice score w/ a link on the RoR blog 😉

    People Over Process FTW!

    JomdomAugust 1, 2006 @ 1:42 am
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Continuing the Discussion

  1. All My Systems Management Clients Are Dead

    People Over Process: Spiceworks: Quick-and-Easy, Free, Ad-supported Systems Management Well, not really that’s really a Gillmor-ism- but you really must check out Spiceworks, as written up by Cote. It is an asset management tool. Its a free ad supporte…