Management vendor spices up free software

Spiceworks has made its free software easier to deploy via proxy servers

Spiceworks this week made available new features in its flagship free software that the vendor says will help existing and new customers more easily customize its product and deploy it via proxy servers.

Spiceworks' IT Desktop 1.0 installs on an IT manager's workstation and inventories systems, clients and other IP-based devices through agent-less discovery methods using open protocols such as Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and Secure Shell.

The start-up first launched its software in the summer 2006 and now boasts 30,000 users. Its target market is IT users with up to 250 devices to be managed. Company founder and CEO Scot Abel says Spiceworks is working to keep up with customer requests for new features.

"As adoption continues, we are hearing from customers that while they love the ease-of-use they want some more advanced features to enable them to see more at a glance and customize it more for their environments," Abel says.

With this release, Spiceworks added features that allow users to tailor inventory attributes and report on anything tracked in their IT network. For instance, the software can now not only track traditional technical metrics such as IP address but also categorize IT assets by owner, office, department and geography. Other enhancements include the ability to deploy the software in environments using proxy servers and more quickly scan and discover network elements. By employing caching technology within the application, Spiceworks says IT Desktop now also runs two to five times faster, which makes managing networks quicker.

Spiceworks says the bulk of its revenue comes from the clickable ads featured in its IT Desktop console program, made possible through a partnership with Google AdSense.

For IT professionals using the software, that means they see a list of clickable ads regarding the subject they are monitoring, though more than three-quarters of the screen will still be devoted to the management program, the company says. For instance, if an IT manager is checking the status of a storage device, the links listed could point to data backup and recovery companies. When users click on the links, Spiceworks gets a cut of the action.

"We get a lot of potential customers asking, 'What's the catch? But there is no fine print. It's free, and it will always be free to our target customers," Abel says.

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