OpenTofu: The Linux Foundation’s Response to HashiCorp’s Moves

Say goodbye to licensing woes with HashiCorp's surprising policy change. OpenTofu is a new free Terraform alternative!

If you are involved in the DevOps space, then Terraform is a name that needs no further introduction. For those unfamiliar with it, we’ll clarify that it is an infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tool developed by HashiCorp, designed to enable users to define and provision infrastructure resources and services in a declarative and automated manner.

Initially released as an open-source product nine years ago in 2014, Terraform skyrocketed in popularity, becoming a vital tool in the enterprise sector’s IT infrastructure deployment.

Everything went well until early last month when HashiCorp surprised the open-source community by announcing switching the license under which Terraform is distributed from Mozilla Public License (MPL) v2.0 to Business Source Licensing (BSL) v1.1.

What does this mean in practice? Simply put, they effectively transformed its flagship product, Terraform, from an open-source project to a closed one. As expected, the reaction of free software supporters was swift, with the Internet flooded with negative comments from disappointed users.

We won’t detail the reasons for this decision, except that the financial results heavily worsened after HashiCorp went public through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in December 2021.

HashiCorp lost 72% of its value since the IPO.
HashiCorp lost 72% of its value since the IPO.

However, as is often the case in the open-source world, when a popular project takes an unexpected turn, a free one immediately emerges, filling the gap. And here, the story does not betray itself again. Meet OpenTofu.

OpenTofu: A Free TerraForm Replacement

OpenTofu Project
OpenTofu Project

OpenTofu, previously named OpenTF, is an open-source alternative to Terraform for simplifying infrastructure management in cloud environments. Under the wing of the Linux Foundation, it is a community-driven response to Terraform’s recently announced license change.

We are excited to announce the launch of OpenTofu, an open-source alternative to Terraform’s widely used infrastructure as a code provisioning tool.

We firmly believe that Terraform should remain open-source because it is a project many companies use, and many contributors have made Terraform what it is today. 

The Linux Foundation

Well, even if we don’t want to, we can’t help but mention our sense of deja vu by drawing a parallel to the recent Red Hat drama of limiting access to its source code, resulting in the emergence of OpenELA. But that’s another story.

Initially, the project will be a drop-in replacement for Terraform, as it will be compatible with Terraform version 1.5.x. However, future releases will likely have difficulties with compatibility, at least since some long-awaited Terraform features are expected to land in the upcoming OpenTofu versions.

Of course, you can continue using HashiCorp’s Terraform, which is free for personal and non-commercial use cases despite the licensing policy change.

However, given the difficult predictability and abrupt turnarounds, the company is willing to take to improve its financial results and meet shareholders’ expectations, it is hard to bet your confidence without accepting the risk that current conditions won’t undergo a surprising change again.

Finally, OpenTofu is currently a work in progress while the project is preparing for its first alpha release and fine-tuning the community contribution process. It has 19 engineers involved already, and many other individuals, companies, projects, and foundations are also prepared to contribute.

For more information, visit the project’s website or its GitHub repository.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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