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User-controlled optical networks play a key role in supporting electronic transfer of the enormous volumes of data generated in emerging e-science experiments. The ability of users to manage their own resources enables provisioning of bandwidth-guaranteed tunnels on demand without the costs associated with conventional managed services offered by network providers. However, building high-performance user-controlled networks has only become feasible in the last few years, as trends in the telecommunications industry have made it possible for users to purchase installed optical fiber and light it using their own premises equipment. Consequently, suitable network management technologies have not yet evolved. In particular, there is presently no means for users to easily provision bandwidth-guaranteed tunnels across multiple independent management domains. In this article we present a user-controlled lightpath management system that addresses this problem. We begin by reviewing the high-level functionality of the system. Then we examine the software architecture. Finally, we discuss design challenges faced while building the system and propose future extensions.