What are the differences of the RHEL 6 kernel and the latest kernel.org one? I know RHEL is based on 2.6.32 with some features backported from newer kernels and that it also has other features that are not yet part of the latest vanilla kernel. Is there any comparison of the features of both kernels so I can tell how advanced is the RHEL kernel 6 vs. latest vanilla and vice versa?. It don't have to be the latest kernel at all, but the more recent the vanilla version, the better.

What I want to know is:

  • What features I lose/win if I change the RHEL kernel for the latest kernel.org’s one?

  • What features are less matured/developed in the latest vanilla kernel than in RHEL’s (and vice versa)? (I guess KVM virtualization is one of them, but I'm not so sure.)

  • What things (libraries / programs / etc) don’t interact as well with the latest vanilla kernel than with the RHEL’s one?

In a related note: Is there ANY way to be as up to date (kernelwise) as possible (using RHEL 6) without loosing too much in the process? (Any way except doing the patching myself, I don’t have the necessary expertise) Any repo I don’t know of? Any alternative?

Update: The srpm doesn't include patches (see comments), so that way is not possible.

Clarification: I'm interested in how "old" the RHEL kernel gets as time goes by, and to know when the latest upstream kernel includes all the improvements included in the RHEL version.


The most explicit way to see exactly what the differences between the RHEL kernel and the vanilla kernel are is to extract the contents of the kernel SRPM and examine the resulting patches.

rpm2cpio kernel-....src.rpm | cpio -id
  • Tried that, but RHEL 6 srpm (kernel-2.6.32-71.el6.src.rpm) doesn't have broken-out patches, only a changelog inside kernel.spec (so I don't know which ones are backported changes, bugfixes or new/improved features). It was a dead end. Broken out patches and git is all I need to answer part of my own questions, or at least have a vague idea about it. – Yanko Hernández Álvarez Nov 16 '10 at 20:49
  • I count 1240 patches in the beta kernel. You're saying that the GA kernel doesn't have any of them? – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Nov 16 '10 at 20:55
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    That's right. Look for example bugs.centos.org/view.php?id=4586 Note (0012051): ... There are no longer individual patches in SOURCES in el6. The source code is a single tar.bz2 file with a version number included ( for example, linux-2.6.32-71.7.1.el6.tar.bz2 )... It's a shame I didn't find that page out before I downloaded the full 65MB on my reeeeaaaaallllly slow connection. :-( – Yanko Hernández Álvarez Nov 16 '10 at 21:06
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    FFFFFFFFFFF... how disappointing. It's still possible to do a diff against a vanilla kernel, but that won't give you as much detail. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Nov 16 '10 at 21:12

The differences between the RHEL 6 kernel and 2.6.37 are listed in the changelogs of every subsequent release. The biggest gains in the 2.6.37 kernel are userspace speed and hardware support. You lose Redhat support for Kernel issues if anything goes wrong. Unless you need to support a piece of hardware, I would not recommend going outside of RHEL in production.

If this is for a personal box, by all means, its a good way to learn. I am running 2.6.37 on my fedora 14 machine right now. My biggest issues were the Nvidia driver, fan control and broadcom support.

  • No. The question is about what are the differences between Linus' version of 2.6.32 and Redhat's one. – Sven Jan 23 '11 at 16:00
  • In fact, I'm more interested in how "old" the RHEL kernel gets as time goes by, and to know when the latest upstream kernel includes all the improvements included in the RHEL one. 'Will correct the question to make that clearer. – Yanko Hernández Álvarez Feb 23 '11 at 15:11

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