AUSTIN, Texas—Spiceworks has added a significant new enterprise management application to its program of providing IT tools for free.
Following an announcement at the SpiceWorld show here, Spiceworks CEO Scott Abel told eWEEK that the Windows Network Monitor application is available for download for free from the Spiceworks App Center to anyone who wants it.
Spiceworks has made a practice of developing high-quality applications that it then gives away. According to Abel, the company uses what he calls the “iTunes model” in which applications are available for downloading on demand from an app center maintained by the company. Right now, the network monitor application is in beta form, but even when it’s in a form that’s being released to the public, it will still be free.
“We monetize the integration [of other companies’ products or services] but not [Spiceworks’] product,” Abel said. He explained it by describing the Spiceworks community, in which IT staffs from around the world gather to provide mutual support, encouragement and general discussion. Spiceworks also encourages outside vendors to take part in the community and offers those vendors the opportunity to integrate their products to Spiceworks customers, he said. When those vendors sell their products or integration services to Spiceworks customers, Spiceworks essentially gets paid a commission.
The Spiceworks Community is critical to the company’s success, Abel told eWEEK. Ideas for new applications come from the community of Spiceworks users, the necessary features are determined with community input, and major choices are voted up or down by members of the community in a process that resembles voting for articles on the Website Reddit.com. The finished software is then provided to the community for testing and comment before the application is officially released.
All of the applications are Windows-based, and anyone can download an application simply by going to the app store. Applications are meant to be easy to download and install, and easy to implement, while still offering powerful features normally found on very expensive commercial applications. The difference is that they’re totally free from Spiceworks.
The company also offers downloadable applications from other vendors in its app store. Those aren’t free but are offered to Spiceworks customers as a convenience. The apps that are available in the Spiceworks App Center range from a highly regarded help desk and inventory application to tools for tracking Microsoft product codes and IP subnet calculators.
The Spiceworks Network Monitor is a new graphical application that monitors any attached network for server utilization including disk and CPU usage. The program can monitor system memory, active processes and services, and environmental data.
I ran through the Network Monitor application with Spiceworks Technical Services Manager David Babbitt. Babbitt was the manager in charge of the development of the Network Monitor, which is now available on the Spiceworks Website. The application is very well designed and can show you the most important characteristics in a series of graphical windows arranged however you want them. You can, for example, keep the windows showing signs of life for each server on top so you can be alerted if something goes down, while also keeping tabs for other signs of trouble such as process queuing.
Spiceworks Releases Enterprise Management Software, for Free of Course
The idea behind the design of the Network Monitor is to provide high-level network metrics available at a glance to network managers. The software has the ability to generate alerts when important metrics go awry. Those alerts can be customized to each network, Babbitt said. “Is the problem important enough to come back from lunch early?” is the basic idea for prioritization.
Babbitt said that the design was kept simple because the companies that use most of Spiceworks’ products have small IT staffs. “Most didn’t want pinpoint details,” Babbitt said. “Managers don’t have time. They need to know basic information. There are a lot of super capable products, and we’re trying not to be that. We wanted to do a good job of doing basic stuff.”
A large portion of the Spiceworks Community is made up of what Babbitt called “accidental IT.” He said that in many smaller companies, the only IT person probably has had no training at all and is handling the IT burden as part of his or her overall duties. In many cases, he said, one person makes up the whole IT staff.
“We want to open up the platform so anyone can use it,” Babbitt said. “We want an approachable app.”
The Spiceworks Network Monitor appears to be a well-designed and useful application that should work in most businesses. In fact, it’s also designed so that it can be downloaded, installed and put to work by anyone, regardless of whether they had any IT or computer science or security training.
The Network Monitor is remarkable enough, but what is more remarkable is that it’s totally free. In the process of giving away its software for free, Spiceworks has accumulated more than 6 million users and hired over 330 employees. The company doesn’t disclose its revenues, so we don’t know for sure that it’s profitable, but it appears to be. In the process of giving away its products, Spiceworks is already growing in the size of its user base and influence in ways other companies would envy.