Orchestrator Startup Inmanta Raises Funding, Bolsters Team

Inmanta, one of the youngest but most intriguing players on the telecom software scene, has recently raised another €600,000 (US$685,500) in funding that could help it secure deals with operators for its service orchestration product.

While the sum is not a vast amount, it gives the Belgian startup some liquidity at a potentially important time in the market. "There is a moment approaching in telecom where we expect decisions to be made about orchestration and we didn't want to miss that," says Stefan Walraven, Inmanta's co-founder and CEO, during an interview with Light Reading.

Inmanta was founded in January 2016 by students at the University of Leuven and claims to have developed an "end-to-end" orchestrator that provides greater openness and programmability than operators would get with existing market products. Most of the recent funding has come from the university and another of the company's original investors, according to Walraven.

The capital increase has allowed Inmanta to add another senior engineer to its team. It now operates with four full-time employees, including Walraven, although it has been using freelancers to bolster resources. The latest recruit will work on product development and provide customer support.

The extra funding will also go toward sales and marketing activities as Inmanta pitches its wares to service providers internationally. Among other things, it will have a presence at this week's Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) event in Los Angeles, where it is demonstrating a proof of concept with Eurofiber, one of three operators that have been trying out its technology.

Walraven hopes additional funding from external investors will follow but says Inmanta could not afford to wait to close its latest round. "Several got in touch with us at end of 2017 and were really interested, but we know that with young companies in Belgium it takes time with external investors and we wanted to go faster," he explains.

Inmanta is also applying to the Flemish government for additional funding that would go purely toward research and development activities.

Service providers unfamiliar with Inmanta may wonder how such a Lilliputian outfit can address some of their most critical needs, but the company's story is certainly compelling. During one of its proof of concepts (with an unnamed Belgian operator), it says it was able to reduce the delivery time for a complex telecom service from five days to just 15 minutes.

While the company is not naming that operator currently, it had previously identified Belgian incumbent Proximus as having engaged in a proof of concept test: In addition, Proximus is one of the operators, along with Telia Company and Swisscom, that had chosen Inmanta as a winner in a "call for innovation" competition.

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This speed comes partly from Inmanta's "top-down" approach to orchestration, said Walraven during an earlier interview with Light Reading. Most existing orchestrators, he reckons, take a "bottom-up" approach, automating and building scripts on top of other technologies. Inmanta creates an "abstraction layer" -- to address interoperability challenges -- very close to the vendor APIs (application programming interfaces). This makes it easier for customers to "onboard" new services and components, according to Inmanta. (See Orchestration Newcomer Inmanta Eyes Funding Round in 2018.)

The "intent-based" programmability of the technology, which hides the underlying complexity from the operator, gives it other key advantages, according to Walraven. "Our orchestrator can look at the current state and the desired state, and then derive automatically all of the actions that should be taken," he says. "It doesn't matter if you start from a failure or a greenfield situation."

Walraven is aiming for the first production deployment by mid-2019 and reckons Inmanta would be able to move faster were it not for the "conservative" nature of the industry. Conservative or not, operators have been keen to find out more about the company, he says, and one can expect to see a healthy level of interest in its technology at this week's MEF show in Los Angeles.

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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