In the last few years the vision of optical communication has evolved from high-capacity, point-to-point links toward full optical networking . Wavelength division multiplexing, originally developed to increase the capacity of the installed fiber base, now forms the basis of flexible optical networking for wide area networks, metropolitan area networks, and possibly local area and access networks. This vision has placed stringent demand on next-generation network elements. These include wavelength agile lasers, reconfigurable add/drop multiplexers, high port-count mux-demux devices, optical cross-connects, broadband amplifiers, gain and dispersion equalizers, in-line optical spectrum analyzers, high-capacity fiber and elements for network management. Several novel devices to meet these demands are emerging from the research laboratory and a number of experimental testbeds have demonstrated the viability of flexible, high-capacity optical networks of the future.