back to article Wanted: IT world domination. Can Spiceworks succeed?

Spiceworld 2013 Austin, Texas-based Spiceworks used the opening keynotes of its 2013 user conference – Spiceworld – to challenge all rivals. The challenge wasn't as overt as walking up to Zuckerberg with an iron glove, slapping him across the face and casting it upon the ground, but a challenge was made nonetheless. LinkedIn …

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I hope spiceworks does succeed. It's the only place on the internet that I know of where multiple vendors and users can come together to share information. It's a fairly level playing field like that. It deserves to succeed.

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This article reads like an ad.

And after reading it I'm still not sure what Spiceworks is.

As far as I can tell it's a subscription-based cross between LinkedIn and Monster. Doesn't strike me as a recipe for success, but what do I know -- I said the same of Twitter.

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Re: This article reads like an ad.

You're on The Register, and you don't know what Spiceworks is?

Well, primarily it is an asset management tool for your network, and help desk.

You host it locally and it gathers data about the kit on your network, it is configurable in many ways, and often spits out some very useful information, it does things like automatically look up warranties that are soon to expire and so on, and it's all free.

The social part is something I don't know much about, but I do know they have free support and forums that have had helpful resources that I've found from searching sometimes.

It is primarily NOT a social network, and is NOT subscription based.

Maybe it could be used in those ways, but I've never found that necessary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This article reads like an ad.

SpiceWorks started as a mediocre system management program, but has since built it's product feature set up quite nicely. It's free* (with ads but you can pay to remove the advertising) which means pretty much any coal-face IT person has at least looked at it. Vendors paid for their ads to be on the SpiceWorks pages.

After a while, the forums became more "help wanted" than product related. Since then, the more you help, the "spicier" you get. Kind of similar to ExpertsExchange and StackOverflow, but without EE's monetisation and SEO tricks and SO's abstraction from vendors. Since then, the quality of answers have increased and the vendors seem to pop-up on the forums more - to dispense "the company truth" and quite often "the real-life truth".

While it doesn't replace my attributes or experience as a L3 network and multi-platform system engineer,, more often than not the onsite contact has asked a question on the SW forum and has a clue (sometimes a dangerous clue) of what's going on, or is required. It's a system ripe for monetisation.

Oblig disclaimer. Started with SpiceWorks at 1.6 and still help friends maintain sites using SpiceWorks (they're not strictly IT people per se)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This article reads like an ad.

"You're on The Register, and you don't know what Spiceworks is?"

I had no idea either. I'm still not sure why being on El Reg would make you assume I did.

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Re: This article reads like an ad.

Spiceworks is a Network Management and Help Desk application. That's a very minor part of the value prop, however, despite what some of the closet-dwelling introverts around here will tell you.

The software is a hook to get you sucked into the community. The community is a social network, full stop. The application itself is evolving away from being "just an app" and towards becoming a "platform" into which vendors and dedicated coders form the community can add modules, etc.

The goal, however, is to build the community in order to buff the social network which is where the revenue comes from. Frankly, they've done a good job of that part. It isn't shocking at all to find that part of the business model pooh-poohed on The Register; of all the tech communities in the world, El Reg has one of the most openly hostile to Social Networking in any form.

Make of it what you will; it's either A) A Network Management app with some annoying stuff you have to put up with in order to get Free Stuff, B) A Social Network with some applicaiton software as a hook, C) Both or D) GET OFF MY GODDAMNED LAWN.

You decide.

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Re: This article reads like an ad.

I have to agree with the OP. The article reads too much like an advertisement.

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@Titus Technophobe

I have a choice every time I write an article: spend the whole article explaining every acronym, every service, every product as though my readers were dumb, deaf and blind...or presume a reasonable amount of industry knowledge on their part and move forward. No matter which of those two I choose, someone is going to get their panties in a bunch in the comments.

I could try to find a happy medium, but that ends up just upsetting everyone.

Do I need to spell out RAID for you lot? MAID? RAIN? What about Cloud, does that still need to be "defined" in every single article? Do I need to keep writing Software as a Service (SaaS) or can I finally just write SaaS and presume that readers have more than 12 functional brain cells to rub together.

There came a point where we stopped having to explain to everyone that Facebook was a Social Network, or that Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows communication like a crippled public IM at 140 characters per second. Sure, some dude who has recently crawled out from under a rock will demand that we explain what they are, but we're at the point that anyone who works in IT and doesn't know what they are should simply not be working in IT.

At some point, as a writer, you have to make that call. You have to presume that your audience will have heard of the service/acronym/standard/etc that you are discussing. If you don't, your entire article devolves into explaining everything and you manage to convery absolutely nothing.

Spiceworks is big enough within our industry that I feel entirely confident saying "it's time to treat it like one of those services everyone in our industry does - or at least should - know about." It was a conscious choice. If you want to call that "an advertisement" you are free to do so. You'd be wrong, but you're free to be wrong.

At the end of the day I am making an assumption about Register readers: that you have access to - and know how to use - search engines. If you've missed something like "Spiceworks becoming a hugely popular service you should know about by now within the IT industry" then I make that assumption that you have the wherewithal to look up the backstory you obviously missed over the past several years.

So when someone says to me "I am unable to figure out what Software Defined Networking is" or "what is Spiceworks" understand that to me such individuals appear to be proclaiming publicly "I have not been paying attention to critical developments in my profession for at least four years and am completely incapable of rectifying this using a search engine. I demand that technology writers continue explaining every little detail for at least a decade after the product/service/company/standard/acronym/etc became mainstream industry knowledge."

You lot seem perfectly happy to demand that I give up on GUIs - despite my being a non-linguistic learner - because CLI/scripts/PoweShell are how "real admins" do things. Anything else is kid's stuff and GUI babies deserve nothing but contempt.

But lo! Attempt as a journalist to treat my audience as though they posses clue and might make it part of their professional advancement to keep abreast of key developments in their industry that are years old and I'm advertising, or being too hard on the poor little muffins who never heard of product/service/company/acronym before.

You lot are going to turn me into one of those jaded journos who no longer reads the comments because I'm utterly convinced there are no signs of intelligent life to be found there.

That's before we get into the bit where one half of the commentards demand that you do nothing but praise the brand to which they've attached their personal sense of self worth and the other half demand you never say a nice thing about anything ever...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Titus Technophobe

@tp - ah, I didn't read those comments as complaining the article was an ad for spiceworks - I read them as complaining that you spent a wee bit too much time advertising yourself ...

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Re: This article reads like an ad.

"This article reads like an ad" - I find that with about 90 percent of Potty's stuff. He must be doing pretty well off all those backhanders he's getting.

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Re: @Titus Technophobe

Now there's a thing that hadn't even occurred. I didn't see it remotely as "advertising myself" so much as "giving context." Unsurprisingly, most of the other companies involved in marketing/content creation and so forth are very leery of talking "on record" of how they feel they fit in with Spiceworks (or any other community.) There's an awful lot of hatred for anyone that does anything remotely close to marketing, and everyone wants to keep their "secrets" of how they do things all close to the vest.

I'm terrible at lying, so I stick to "tell the truth." Make a business of honesty and you have a heck of a lot less to remember. It also comes out in my writing; I've no issue using myself or my company as examples for things where others would fear retaliation from a vendor or theft of trade secrets. If you remove my ability to find work in an area, I'll go find work in another.

If that's a problem, it leaves me curious...and perhaps a bit sad. Unfortunately, however, not surprised. "Honesty" is something with decreasing value these days. :(

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: This article reads like an ad.

He gets so many backhanders he goes undercover and dodges vendors' PRs to find out what's actually going on... see here.

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Re: This article reads like an ad.

"Backhanders" from Spiceworks. *snort*

If these internet piranhas had even the faintest clue in hell how much I loathe travelling (especially flying) or the unbelievable amount of shit I have to go through every time I enter the USA*...

I go to Spiceworks because it's relevant to "my people" (sysadmins). I went to VMworld because as a newly minted vExpert I wanted to meet all the other super-cool vExperts I'd met on Twitter. Both were arduous, painful, miserable experiences I didn't enjoy in the least.

Most things I do that might generate a "backhander" by piranha standards - reviews, conferences, etc - usually cost me far more (up front or in the time spent) than I'll ever make writing a few articles. I do these because they are what generate the majority of positive comments from readers. Admittedly, via e-mails from readers, rather than in the piranha pit. The piranha pit isn't happy with anything, ever. Criticize or praise, analyze or opine, they'll be a tank of piranhas demanding you for dinner.

Well, off to bed before I become completely jaded and cynical...

*I really hate being interrogated. The lights in that damned room are too bright.

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Re: This article reads like an ad.

Sigh. Why is it that everytime a writer likes something, it "reads like an ad" or is a shill.

P.S. We are paying Trevor, not Spiceworks.

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Drive-by abuse

You are imputing bad faith / corruption on his part and by extension ours.

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Drive-by abuse

You are imputing bad faith / corruption on his part and by extension ours. Fun guy.

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For me personally the SpiceWorks software has too much advertising all together, so I removed it a few weeks ago.

As busy as my next IT-pro administrator I am always on the lookout for options and free tools making my day easier, and have been trying out Spiceworks for about half a year now. Its really a decent system, I run about 300 servers in the production environment, and this software has helped here and there with small tasks. Mainly in reminding me of disks filling up I think. I hope they do make it, and I think an essential ingredient of "making it" is: Don't bombard the user with ads.

Take a look at other successful free software and services . How visible is the advertising? Does it feel like google or facebook are spamming you with ads? I seem to remember in the "browser wars" (maybe still ongoing?) that whoever showed less ads win.

In the spiceworks system I felt I was spammed in my inbox and when viewing the GUI consoles. I'll continue to visit the online communities though.

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Too many ads?

There is a way to get around that - i.e. pay for MyWay, do some creative CSS in a plugin in the app, block the ad networks (adblocker) - but to be fair, this /is/ how they make money to bring this resource to us.

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Meanwhile...

Meanwhile, MS is slowly exiting the same market. Closing down and dumbing down the technical communities.

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Re: Meanwhile...

The thought had occurred. I think, however, this is largely because Microsoft simply doesn't see technical folks as all that relevant anymore. For whatever reason, Microsoft doesn't feel they have to influence coalface admins or even CIOs. It's all about the consumer, or the CEO. Nothing in between.

I have to admit to a great deal of curiosity about who's right in that gamble. Microsoft seem very desperately ti want to be the new Oracle.

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Anonymous Coward

As a developer I have no clue what Spiceworks is, and that's not because I live under a rock. A sentence or two describing it wouldn't have gone amiss, same as a sysadmin would like to at least know the basics of a development related article.

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That's a fair statement and an entirely reasonable complaint. I will take that under advisement when writing any future series on them, or other sysadmin-centric companies.

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Wouldn't mind finding out more about Spiceworks - in the normal El Reg way.

As a monitoring bod who has ended up low on the budget priority then I've had a look at Spiceworks. I would love something that fits inbetween Nagios/Zenoss/Free but looking god-awful and a paid solution of 100k (which also doesn't look great). The internet is full of people extolling one "free" software app against another - usually people proclaiming the others to be fools. However I would love it if El Reg could be my cynical fact checker here in an in-depth article (part 2?).

It's onsite (which is a step above "let us monitor your confidential production servers from the cloud") - but what information goes back to the mothership? Is it just the asset management data? How bad is the advertising on a scale between static banner ad to flash monkeys moving across the screen? How is integration with all the propriety consoles hardware manufacturers are pushing us towards by dropping most of their SNMP support (I'm looking at you, VMWare, HP SANs, Firewalls, HP Procurve, etc). How flexible is it in being able to add data using scripts and all the other duct-tape needed to try and get data into one pane-of-glass?

The community bit sounds ok - but how does it differ from Stack-Exchange or vendor specific forums?

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Re: Wouldn't mind finding out more about Spiceworks - in the normal El Reg way.

Well, as it so happens, I actually have "a complete noob to Spiceworks" working on such an article. He's a sysadmin used to things like Nagios, Zenoss and some of the Enterprise monitoring options. I got him working on Spiceworks about a month ago. Sometime in the next few weeks his report should be ready and it'll get worked into an article.

I've been using Spiceworks for so long, I felt a more objective perspective was required...and it hasn't change that much since my last review of the software portion of the exercise a little while back. The basic MDM stuff has finally been integrated is really the big one.

As for the community bit, the closest would be Stack Exchange, excepting Stack Exchange doesn't have the deep vendor integration. And it's for developers. (Who cares about dev? It's all about ops! :P)

The unique bit about Spiceworks is honestly how they integrate vendors into the community. Ask a question in Spiceworks, get an answer. If the community itself doesn't have it, the vendors will. Play vendors off one another to see who can do best for a particular project. See if you can get a lower quote from one than another.

If Stack Exchange is a library full of nerds where other nerds go to seek sage advice then Spiceworks is "the big city" that a work crew on an out-of-town site drives into for supplies, access to consultants and to meet up with other working hands.

The ads are pretty dominating, there's no lying about that. They are typically static - no screen-dominating crap - but they occupy a fair amount of screen real-estate. You can, however, simply ad-block them and they go away. (Should you choose to do so.)

Spiceworks claims the local install doesn't even send asset management data back to the mothership. As it's on-site, any plugins, etc that you install are all on your own server. Your database lives on your network. Mostly just metrics about how you interact with the community go back to them, but that's because "the community" actually lives on their site.

Integration with vendors depends on the vendor. Some - like Juniper, HP - have begun integration projects. Some companies (LogMeIn as one example) have gone whole-hog and are deeply integrated. Others (like Teamviewer) view Spiceworks as competition for their ambitions to be the helpdesk and so have zero integration. That said, a lot of vendors are working on integration today. (This part is discussed more in depth in part 2.)

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SpiceWorks is like a guild

Not sure if you meant a guild like the guild of shoemakers or in the MMO sense. I would say SpiceWorks is definitely like an MMO guild though, full of noisy noobs who don't know shit but won't shut the hell up. I suspect that also makes it very like Facebook but I wouldn't know.

I tried SpiceWorks for a while but now I only use it if I'm really, really bored.

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