Terraform's new license and the OpenTF fork


HashiCorp’s recent announcement to transition from the Mozilla Public License v2.0 to the Business Source License (BSL) v1.1 for its open source software has made waves within the DevOps community. The decision lead to the creation of OpenTF, an open-source fork of Terraform aiming to keep it free.



In the ever-evolving landscape of open-source software, licensing decisions can have far-reaching implications. On August 10th, 2023, HashiCorp, a key player in the DevOps tooling industry (offering tools such as Terraform, Vault, and Vagrant), announced a significant change in its licensing model. This decision has sparked intense debate and led to the emergence of OpenTF, a fork of Terraform. This article explores the details of these developments and the community’s response.

HashiCorp’s Licensing Change

HashiCorp declared a change in its source code license from Mozilla Public License v2.0 (MPL 2.0) to the Business Source License (BSL) v1.1 for all future releases of its products. According to Hashicorp, while APIs, SDKs, and most libraries will remain MPL 2.0, the shift to BSL 1.1 aims to ensure continued investment in the community and provide open, freely available products. The company’s stated that its commitment to its community and open approach remains unchanged, but the decision has stirred strong reactions.

Community Feedback

  • Still Open Source, but less so - Many, including the Joe Duffy (the Founder/CEO of Pulumi), perceive this move as HashiCorp’s departure from being an open-source company. Some prefer the BSL to going completely closed source, appreciating the continued visibility into the code.

  • Business Necessity and a potential IPO - Others recognize the need for revenue and sustainability, pointing to HashiCorp’s financial losses as a possible motivation. Speculation exists that HashiCorp’s decision may be related to the company going public.

The OpenTF Manifesto announcement

The OpenTF Manifesto emerged in response to HashiCorp’s licensing change, expressing concern over the switch and calling the BUSL a “poison pill” .

The manifesto’s goal is to ensure that Terraform remains truly open source, urging HashiCorp to revert to an open-source license or proposing to fork Terraform into a foundation.

Community Feedback

  • Positive Reception of OpenTF’s Approach - OpenTF’s focus on positives has been well-received. There’s enthusiasm for OpenTF becoming part of the Linux Foundation.

  • Historical Perspective - The history of open-source software has seen successful forks like LibreOffice from OpenOffice, Jenkins from Hudson, and MariaDB from MySQL. These examples demonstrate that community-centric forks can thrive. However, it remains to be seen what the future will bring for OpenTF.

Our Direction

HashiCorp’s license change echoes past missteps like Sun Microsystems with Java, where sudden shifts led to community fragmentation. While aiming for financial sustainability, There’s a potential risk of long-term community support.

We at CloudExpat are ready to transition to OpenTF and fully support the technology if it evolves and becomes mainstream. We urge clients and the DevOps community to closely monitor these pivotal changes.