Processor manufacturer Tilera is set to draw the plaudits at the Hot Chips exhibition with its radical grid-style chip architecture.

The company, which was set up at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1997, has developed a new approach for its 64-core processor.

Tilera's TILE64 processor, designed to be an embedded processor in intelligent networking and digital media distribution equipment, has been sold to networking companies such as 3Com and video network equipment providers such as Codian and GoBackTV.

The major chip makers improve performance by going from one core to two and then four, but Anal Agrawal, chief technology officer of Tilera, said there was a limit to how much more those core numbers could grow.

Conventional chips have a central bus, or hub, that signals go through in and out of the chipset, he said. Like an old European city, all roads lead to the centre of town. He said that Tilera's grid pattern offered multiple paths across the chip like the street grid on a modern city.

Tilera's grid is created by placing tiles in eights row of eight tiles apiece, hence the name TILE64. Each tile contains a switch that moves the data along to the next tile. With a grid, data packets move more smoothly and without stopping as they would as traffic backs up going through a central hub. TILE64 is priced at US$435 in orders of a minimum of 10,000 units.

Intel has been working on a similar grid design under its Tera-scale Computing research programme, but, Agrawal said, "we're early."

The Hot Chips forum on semiconductor research, begins today at Stanford University. The event is an annual gathering of researchers, academics, and industry leaders discussing present and future developments in semiconductors, said John Sell, general chairman of the conference.

Tilera's innovation seems to have more practical value than other presentations, which demonstrate great performance, but limited market value, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64.

Continuing the street grid analogy, Brookwood says two- or four-core processors may be enough for a small town with only two main streets intersecting.

"But as Smallville evolves to Metropolis, you obviously have more traffic. If you go to the grid model, if the lights are timed right, everybody can get through," he said.