Spiceworks, a supplier of network management software primarily for SMBs, is coming to Europe, forming Spiceworks Europe Ltd, based in London - a hint at its sky-rocketing growth path.
In a time of great international austerity, five year-old Spiceworks' interesting business model looks tailor-made for the times. After developing its SMB network management software, it promptly made it available free of charge - but I did not say open source. The founders came from a major network software vendor - having asked the question: "What about the little guy?"
Their user companies, typically of less than 1,000 employees with only one or two IT professionals keeping their systems up and running, suddenly had some free software to tap into. It was a good application to help them do their job better. Growth among users was so fast from the off that, in 10 days in July 2006, Spiceworks gained 3,500 users, expanding to 33,000 by year-end. Now, according to Spiceworks, there are some two million IT professionals on Spiceworks' network, connected into the world's biggest IT community (increasing faster than I can count).
As of now, the software includes network discovery and inventory management, warranty monitoring, network mapping and monitoring, configuration change management, troubleshooting, IT help desk (etc.). (It excludes network security, leaving that to vendor partner specialists.) Now that the software has a proven track record, it certainly narrows the options for direct competitors in network management and asset management.
Many of Spiceworks' software improvements and expansions have resulted from user feedback; wisely, it connected these users into what is now the world's biggest IT community (even ahead of Twitter in network traffic), and the software is still developing fast. However, unlike open source, Spiceworks' staff alone does the code.
In 2011 the company added iPhone and Android mobile support and new reports are out on network bandwidth traffic, trended usage of printer ink and vendor-neutral UPS power management - in themselves small but all assisting users as they seek to save costs. Now it is working on integrating cloud services such as hosted e-mail.
Of course, giving away software would not on its own be a bright business model. So, right from when the beta appeared in 2006, the company allowed closely-controlled but free vendor advertisements within the user interface, providing an immediate revenue stream. Some vendors then found they got lots of extra leads, so now there are over 500 technical brands, with the advertising facility extended to allow product quoting, bidding and purchasing on-line.
The user community likes these vendor listings, not least because they can save time trawling through vendor offerings, including those from smaller vendors, to inform their own purchasing decisions. This advertising was initially only available through the US, but Spiceworks Europe Ltd will soon add some UK-based partners for the local market.
Newer benefits include a user knowledgebase of templates of "how to" items. So far there are 2,500 of these. So the network story continues.
Privately-held Spiceworks' mantra is "Simplify everything IT" and the company has worked hard to maintain high integrity and best practice. Spiceworks moved into the black in 2011 and now seems destined to soar away. Love or loathe the Spiceworks' business model, it works.