Currently, support for digital media is one of the fastest growing requirements of the Internet as demand transitions from services designed to support primarily text and images to those intended also to support rich, high quality streaming multi-media. In response to the need to address this important 21st century communications challenge, an international consortium of network research organizations has established an initiative, the High Performance Digital Media Network (HPDMnet), to investigate key underlying problems, to design potential solutions, to prototype those solutions on a global experimental testbed, and to create an initial set of production services. The HPDMnet service is being designed not only to support general types of digital media but also those based on extremely high resolution, high capacity data streams. These HPDMnet services, which are based on a wide range of advanced architectural concepts at all layers, provide a framework for network middleware that allows non-traditional resources to enable new network services, including those based on dynamically provisioned international lightpaths supported by flexible optical-fiber and optical switching technology. These HPDMnet services have been showcased at major national and international forums, and they are being implemented within several next generation communications exchanges. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.