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Why does RHEL (and its derivatives) use such an old kernel? It uses 2.6.32-xxx, which seems old to me. How do they support newer hardware with that kernel? As far as I know these kind of distributions do run on fairly modern hardware.

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I think the principal criterion for RHEL & co is stability. The 2.6.32 branch of the kernel is rated very stable after years of testing and bug chasing. I run the same version of the kernel on my system and i'm very enthusiastic about it's stability. – user1146332 Jan 22 '13 at 20:04
If you look at other distributions, Red Hat is not alone. – ott-- Jan 22 '13 at 22:01
I'm on Debian stable right now, running the 2.6.32 kernel it has shipped. It's a couple years old, it's really not that old. You'd be amazed at the number of machines running /really/ old software out there. – rahmu Jan 30 '13 at 1:31
up vote 24 down vote accepted

Because Red Hat Enterprise Linux is foremost about stability, and is a long-lived distribution (some 10 years guaranteed). RHEL users don't want anything to change unless absolutely necessary. But note that the base version of the kernel is old, RHEL's kernel contains lots of backported stuff and bug fixes, so it isn't really old.

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That backported "stuff" also includes newer drivers for hardware support and sometimes even new features. – jordanm Jan 22 '13 at 21:15
SLE (SUSE Linux Enterprise) also uses a version-number-wise old kernel. Yet is has literally thousands of patches on top of vanilla kernel of the same version: back-ported bug fixes, enhancements and drivers. In other words: "looking into the source packages is not for the faint-hearted". :) – peterph Mar 19 '13 at 17:27

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