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Tool time with Trevor: 'Organic' sysadmins' spice mush still pretty edible

When 'eat what's in front of you' just won't wash

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Are you absolutely sure it's plugged in?

It's been mentioned several times that Spiceworks is free; this is actually a lie, the Spiceworks is functionally a marketing expense required to sell you, the sysadmin, to vendors. Many people find the idea of an application littered with advertisements annoying. In this one rare case, I don't want the advertisements to go away. I am legitimately interested in most of what is being advertised at me when using Spiceworks. In truth, the number one frustration I have with Spiceworks are the limitations in vendor integration.

I've recently come off of a massive "learn all the things about Server 2012" project and am diving headlong into VMware's 5.1 offerings. I am 100 per cent sold on the concept of "single pane of glass" management. Microsoft on Microsoft with added Microsoft is an unbelievably impressive stack of products. You have to mortgage a small nation to afford it, but what this integrated stack can provide the affluent sysadmin sure is sexy.

By comparison, Spiceworks feels limited. There is this stack of products from alternative vendors that I use every day; other SMB/SME admins will have their own list. Most of them are even Spiceworks sponsors. In the coming revisions of Spiceworks, these need to see far deeper integration into the UI.

If I am looking up a system in the inventory list and that system has Teamviewer, then it should be offering me the ability to Teamviewer in to fix the problem. Right there from within the Spiceworks interface; RDP, VNC, LogMeIn, you name it. I should be able to run a resultant set of policy scan against any Windows box and see what the GPOs and local policies are doing to that PC, or see what state is being enforced on that system by its Puppet Master.

I'd love to have a major IM provider (read: Gtalk) brought into the loop. Or an offer of "live chat" through the Spiceworks end-user portal, with the conversation logged into the relevant ticket. The list goes on.

It's a trap!

When you deal with Microsoft, you eat whatever is put on the table in front of you, say "thank you" and make sure you say your prayers before bed time. There are no avenues of appeal for the the average Joe. Dissent is dealt with harshly; just ask Mary Jo Foley (skip to the last paragraph).

As a company, Spiceworks is the antithesis of this; they are built from the community up. That means that if I spot a bug or notice a UI flaw, have a feature request or think a given vendor should integrate more then getting it dealt with is a real world possibility. I don't have to be a large enterprise or possess the magic email address. I can be Joe Random; so long as I have a forum account, I can have my voice heard. That notion could get away from me rather quickly, turning into a time consuming hobby. It is more dangerous to me than most open source projects. I don't have the patience to be a truly hardcore programmer; I am not going to recode a buggy Wi-Fi driver.

I do have the skills to do QA testing and type up detailed bug reports, or play the schmooze game necessary to get vendors in the same room and agree to play nice. I am great at coming up with new features, or repurposing extant code in new ways. If I threw enough time at it, I could help shape the Spiceworks application according to my vision; a dangerously enticing idea.

The Spiceworks application does what it says on the tin. In most cases, it does it quite well; more importantly it's free. The hardest part is not making the application work; the hardest part is limiting myself to what it is today instead of dreaming about what it could be tomorrow. ®

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