I am gearing up to do some scientific experiments that involve modifying the linux kernel to collect data on the internal runtime states of certain modules. We want to do the experiments over a handful of kernel versions that represent what's actually being used in real datacentres.

Question: How do I come up with the list of kernel versions to test? I can certainly pick some versions myself, but it would have more scientific credibility if there was some reference we could point to justify our choices. Even something informal like DistroWatch.com, but for kernel versions, would be helpful. Or possibly scraping download statistics from package managers of popular distributions, if that data is public.

[Note: I asked this first on ServerFault, but it was closed as "not relevant to systems administrators". Hopefully it's more on-topic here]

  • 4
    A starting point may be picking up all the stable versions from a major version.
    – sjsam
    Apr 26, 2016 at 3:58
  • If you had the equipment and time(and permission) you could scrape public servers using OS fingerprinting(using an active scanner such as nmap or a passive scanner like p0f) which can usually give you a pretty good idea of the kernel version. This might not be representative because servers tend to update less frequently than single user systems.
    – torchhound
    Apr 29, 2016 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


[Self answer]

While this is less than satisfying, we essentially went with @sjsam's advice and built a list of kernel versions by looking at the default kernel versions that ship with RedHat Enterprise Linux.

Looking at versions of RHEL that are still in support today (April 2016), this gives us the list:

  • 2.6.18
  • 2.6.32
  • 3.10.0
  • 4.X (just for good measure, I should test on whatever's current when we do the experiments)

I have no way of knowing how well this list represents what's "what's actually being used in real datacentres", but it's something. If we assume that datacentre engineers don't update their kernel from the default, then it's probably reasonably good.

  • OVH ships custom kernels on its customer facing systems. I have hit all sorts of problems trying to run complex firewall rules and discovering the necessary modules are missing.
    – roaima
    Apr 29, 2016 at 20:09

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