Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spiceworks IT Dashboard

I spent a few hours playing with Spiceworks, a product that provides a web based infrastructure management and monitoring platform. Its a interesting and versatile product. Most unique is the fact that it is offered at no cost: its free as in beer, but not free as in speech.

Spiceworks installs as a service on a Windows system on the network. (I used a VM, of course.) It launches a network discovery process, classifies devices, and presents its information through a web interface. Since it is web based, the service can be accessed and managed from an workstation on the network, including Linux.

So, how well does it work? Oddly, my biggest problem was its failure to properly identify Windows systems. Once discovered, Spiceworks prompts for a username and password to be used to access the system. This is kind of scary, since the product is not open source. Unfortunately, most "home" Windows systems do not support remote access. To further complicate things, my Windows systems that do support RDP were shown as "no ports open".

On the Linux side, it was actually quite impressive. It provides graphical versions of df -h as well as a trend chart of disk usage over time. There are also IP and ethernet reports. For the ESX server, it provided a report on running VMs. As for Citrix Xenserver and Linux Xen... nothing.

I can see that the product could have value for a small enterprise: 100-200 people, with an IT staff of 5-15. Anything larger and it would be blocked by firewalls. Anything smaller (like me) and it doesn't really add value. Most importantly, the product is "advertiser supported". There needs to be an ad free subscription version.


  1. Hi Doug. Thanks for your honest feedback about Spiceworks free network management software. I passed your comments over to our development and support departments so they can properly address your concerns with the product.

    Regarding the advertisements, there is actually an ad-free version called "Spiceworks MyWay." It offers the same functionality but is branded with your company logo in place of the sponsorships. More information is available at

    -Jason H. Smith, Spiceworks Online Marketing Specialist

  2. Hi Doug, thanks for the brief product review and feedback about your experience. I'm a Support Engineer here at Spiceworks, we work with a variety of users who own small home networks to Admins in large organizations with multiple sites and over 2K nodes. We could assist you in isolating your issues on your Windows computers that do support WMI but, display "no open ports" and perhaps answer/dispel any security concerns that you may have with regard to authentication. Please feel free to send us a request to referencing your blog thread and we'll be happy to assist you.

    Marcelo Alcazar, Manager of Technical Support

  3. A point of clarification regarding Spiceworks and passwords. I have no reason to suspect the service would send passwords out of network. The term I used was "scary", because I am placing all my passwords in one location. I'm will to accept (on faith) that the passwords are stored in an encrypted format, but if an automated system can read the password, so can the bad guys. My concern is admittedly over paranoid, perhaps as a result of spending too much time in the federal sector.

    But, hey it's inside the firewall. If you trust your infrastructure, it should be a non-issue.