The world’s largest community of managed service providers doesn’t belong to a major IT vendor or any of the well-established remote monitoring and management software providers. Rather, the crown goes to Spiceworks, a provider of free, Web-based network management tools.

At least that’s what Spiceworks claims in a press release issued today.
Austin, Texas-based Spiceworks is coming out of the shadows in the channel, saying it has amassed a community of more than 65,000 MSPs worldwide, of which about half reside in North America.

“This is the best-kept secret,” says Jay Hallberg, the company’s founder. “We’ve built up a significant base, and we want to make people more aware of it and what we can do.”

When Spiceworks launched in 2006, it was billed more as a social network or a new media offering that primarily competed with technology and mainstream media companies such as Ziff Davis Enterprise (Channel Insider’s parent company), CMP and IDG for advertising dollars. The company offers IT professionals free Web-based network monitoring and management tools wrapped in a community of users that share information and collaborate on problems. The service is supported by advertising that displays in the tool’s various dashboards.

Spiceworks’ total community of IT professionals now numbers more than 700,000 worldwide—mostly of practitioners in small and midsize businesses. Hallberg says the community is adding more than 1,000 new members a day.

From this community the Spiceworks managed services effort was born. Hallberg says the company never set out to target MSPs; it was mostly serendipity. About a year ago, Spiceworks started filtering its overall community for IT service providers and discovered a growing population of MSPs. Around the same time it started receiving requests from MSPs for features and improvements in the platform.

If the 65,000 MSP figure rings true, Spiceworks’ MSP community is larger than any of the communities and customer bases built by the remote monitoring and management toolmakers, such as N-Able, Level Platforms and Kaseya. It would also be larger than all the combined users of professional services automation (PSA) software by ConnectWise, Autotask and TigerPaw. And it’s nearly five-and-a-half times the size of the combined membership of the Managed Service Provider Association and MSP Partners, the two largest associations.

“We continue to keep building up this base where nearly 10 percent of our base is made up of small managed service providers and IT consultants,” Hallberg says.

The claim is incredible to some, if not outlandish, in the more defined managed services community and marketplace. While it’s not inconceivable for a new tool company to enter the burgeoning managed services market, it’s difficult for many people to believe that such a large community could spring up without catching the attention of the established players.

“We never run into them,” says Dan Wensley, vice president of partner development. “We’re in 30 different countries, and we’ve never seen them.”

“We have not heard of anyone in the general channel talking about them,” adds Brian Sherman, director of partner development at Autotask.

Even solution providers active in the managed services and distribution collaborative networks are scratching their heads at Spiceworks’ claims. While Spiceworks lists quotes by users such as Coleman Computer Services, Fixed by Geeks and GFI Consulting, established managed service providers say the company is a complete mystery.

“I have a hard time seeing it as 65,000 users,” says Lane Smith, president of Do IT Smarter.

The Spiceworks community pages list nearly 30,000 individuals as members of the “IT Service Providers” group, and community members are active in responding to posts asking everything from enabling remote access to marketing a managed service to contracting best practices.