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Internet traffic has been growing quickly for many years and this growth will continue in the future (despite temporarily adverse economic conditions) requiring enhanced network technologies. Also to cope with this evolution, the cost of today's network solutions is still too high. In addition, in line with the EC goal of reducing the overall emissions, energy efficiency should be widely improved, primarily using whenever possible optics instead of electronics where only bit transport is required. Moreover, due to the unpredictable traffic increase, flexible bandwidth management has to be used instead of fixed allocated bandwidth. For these reasons, the key requirements for innovative ultra-high bandwidth networks refer to scalability, flexibility, assurance of end-to-end quality of service and energy efficiency, beside reduction of total cost of ownership. In the data plane, current equipment and network architectures still provide limited scalability, are not cost-effective and do not properly guarantee end-to-end quality of service. In the control plane, the open issue is to define an end-to-end control structure that allows different technologies and domains to inter-work efficiently, incorporating virtualization of network resources.