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Spiceworks hits 200,000 Users and Spiceworks 2.0

This week Spiceworks announced several things:

  • Version 2.0 – many behind the scenes performance fixes, Windows Event Log monitoring, traceroute and ping “troubleshooting,” reviews and ratings for IT devices, search, and a handful of other features.
  • 200,000 users – in the past, “users” has meant “active users” instead of just downloads. This is a large number for how young Spiceworks is and the main, public metric you can use for gauging how they’re doing – Spiceworks doesn’t disclose advertising revenue, even to me (not like I’m Mister Bigshot or anything) when I give them that “come on, I won’t tell anyone” look ;>
  • Several new advertising partners. From the press release: “including Microsoft, St. Bernard Software, LogMeIn, Brother, Symantec, Verio, Rackspace U.K., MessageLabs U.K., and Sunbelt Software. They join other Spiceworks advertisers, such as HP, Rackspace, McAfee, Netgear, Sony and TrendMicro.”

See the press release and related story.

New Features

The three items in the new feature bucket that are worth dwelling on are the performance improvements, Windows Event Log integration. and the product review pages.

To me, working on “performance” is a very 2.0 thing for an IT management platform to do. When you’re first developing the platform (or any software really), you sort of throw performance concerns out the door. There’s no money – at the birth of a product – in making sure it runs fast and efficiently. Instead, you want to those great, targeted features that bring in your core user base and grow you to a large enough user base that people start complaining, hard-core, that this stuff just doesn’t run fast enough.

Don’t get me wrong: it’d be great if the 1.x versions of a product ran fast and scaled. But, you’ll probably end up prioritizing those things lower on the list than “killer feature X that will get us new customers.” It’s just how things shake out.

Windows Event Log management, for Spiceworks customer base, is a handy to have for sure. In *nix-land, you’ve got all those plain-text logs running around everywhere logging all sorts of stuff. In Windows-land – where most of Spiceworks users live – it’s all Windows Event Log, all the time. Back when I worked on BMC Performance Manager, we had tons of people use the Windows Event Log for everything. That thing’s like the mainline of events for Microsoft software.

Now, the product page is what got my blood running when Jay and Tony (of Spiceworks) showed it to me last week. Essentially, it’s like a stripped down Amazon- or iTunes-like page built into Spiceworks where users can leave ratings and comments. They can say this and that HP laptop is cool, this and that HP laptop sucks.

At first, Spiceworks isn’t going to do much with this except let people use and comment on it. Of course, when Spiceworks discovers one of those HP laptops on a user’s network, the Spiceworks page on that laptop will link to this product page.

What’s valuable here, for Spiceworks, is building up an asset of all the crowd-sourced information about IT, including normalizing out duplicate or duplicat-ish ID numbers for IT junk. For example, HP might have 5 “different” laptops that differ only by the amount of memory shipped. For most purposes, there is no difference and it’d be better to model those IT assets as one item with different memory.

What’s more valuable is the meta-data associated with those IT assets: links to drivers for software and hardware, users comments on how to fix bugs, users comments on hardware and software that works well together. That is, what’s valuable is for Spiceworks to capture all the tacit knowledge about all those IT assets.

Now, I haven’t read the fine-print of who owns all that IP, but you can wager Spiceworks has typed up the fine-print to profit from it. Aside from the crazy-high usefulness of that IT asset database, it’s also an asset to Spiceworks to dangle to an potential acquirers.

As an example, think of AssetMetrix, acquired by Microsoft some years back. Boiled down for this discussion, AssetMetrix scanned a company’s software and built up a database of “fingerprints” that helped identify all sorts of software. AssetMetrix built up an huge index of software in use by it’s customers and the algorithms and code needed to identify and update that database. As Microsoft’s acquisition of AssetMetrix showed, that database was valuable – sure, not the only valuable thing.

Aside from being a potentially nice asset on the balance sheet, that IT asset database is great for Spiceworks users and (potentially) advertisers. Users can potentially go to the product page to find information, like drivers, faster than hunting around on Google. Advertisers can mine it for all sorts of demographic, usage, and other “survey” data.

As that 200,000 number grows, that data gets better and better. Number-hogs like IDC might even be interested someday.

Users vs. Customers

In most of the coverage I’ve done in the past, I’ve focused on the IT features of Spiceworks. At this point in Spiceworks life – having obviously built up a core following with those 200,000 users – it’s important to start paying attention to Spiceworks’ customers, advertisers. I use that term loosely as what I mean is something more along the lines of “people willing to pay Spiceworks for access to the attention-stream of IT admins they maintain.”

Currently, as you’ll find if you use Spiceworks, there’s sort of two main products to sell these customers: ads in Spiceworks and opt-in email ads. I’d expect to see Spiceworks finesse these two channels and figure out new ones as well. As with their revenue, Spiceworks is very closed-lipped about their plans for more ad channels: they tell me nothing, so anything I say is pure speculation.

I’d suspect they’ll work on making the ads even more targeted and introduce new mediums for ads. For example, as part of 2.0 when you open a help desk ticket in Spiceworks, you can put IT assets on your wish-list. Like, “running out of storage, need to buy more hard-drives.” Boom: there’s a great pool of “gestures” to sell storage to.


As I mentioned in my note about Paglo, the up-and-coming, hosted, IT search service (Paglo) looks to be a Spiceworks competitor. By this, I mean competitor for Spiceworks customers, not it’s users. I suspect the same pool of users would love each company’s product, using them together. But, as far as ad/attention spend, Spiceworks and Paglo will be competing for the same dollars. Now, you could take the tact that there’s a whole lot of dollars out there for that spend-bucket, and it might even be growing. That’s probably right. But still, if you’re an ad buyers, you’ll probably stick Spiceworks and Paglo in the same spend-spreadsheet, right?

I don’t really see a big problem there at the moment – and, hey, I’m not really an expert at all on ad buying – but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Disclaimer: Spiceworks is a client (in the process of renewing at the moment), as is the STB unit at Microsoft.

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Categories: Marketing, Systems Management.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] away from the “E” in “ESM,” I talk about the recent release of Spiceworks 2.0. Of note is their user base number of 200,000 and the “product pages” they’ve […]