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Dense wavelength-division multiplexing technology enables vast network capacity expansion over existing network infrastructure. Unfortunately, there is no single switching technology that can cost-effectively scale to a large number of DWDM channels while meeting the diverse needs of heterogeneous applications. For example, despite its rich set of traffic management capabilities, electronic packet switching requires hundreds of expensive optical/electrical/optical converter pairs just to terminate a single DWDM link. While optical switching technologies can bypass O/E/O conversion, neither of the two practical optical switching technologies, optical circuit switching or optical burst switching, can switch at the packet level. The proposed novel DWDM multimode switching router architecture allows electronic packet switching, optical circuit switching, and optical burst switching to be supported concurrently on an integrated router platform. In the proposed approach, the router supports a large number of DWDM channels cost effectively by maintaining a relatively small set of shared, though expensive, electronic switching ports. With this architecture, each DWDM channel can be individually reconfigured to a different switching mode, based on the dynamic traffic load. Individual applications, or individual types of messages within an application, can choose the mode that best suits its need.