Linux 3.1.19 is the latest stable kernel but every distribution out there is at least three minor point releases behind, and in the case of CentOS 6, they’re still on a 2.6 kernel.
I managed to compile a monolithic (all modules needed compiled in) 3.1.19 kernel under CentOS 6 and successfully got it to boot and run. There are a few minor glitches such as nfs-utils needs to be updated, but the new kernel falls back to old behaviour so it still works even though it emits a few bitch messages.
The newer kernels have some capabilities that allow Apache, Bind, Postfix, and some other programs to operate more efficiently. Building a kernel from scratch also allows me to remove a lot of unneeded cruft that just wastes memory and CPU cycles. It allows me to adjust parameters to optimize for our hardware environment and work loads.
I’ve attempted this in the past but this is the first time I’ve been successful with 3.x kernels.