When HashiCorp announced it was changing its Terraform license in August, it set off a firestorm in the open source community, and actually represented an existential threat to startups that were built on top of the popular open source project. The community went into action and within weeks they had written a manifesto, and soon after that launched an official fork called OpenTF.
Today, that group went a step further when the Linux Foundation announced OpenTofu, the official name for the Terraform fork, which will live forever under the auspices of the foundation as an open source project. At the same time, the project announced it would be applying for entry into the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).
“OpenTofu is an open and community-driven response to Terraform's recently announced license change from a Mozilla Public License v2.0 (MPLv2) to a Business Source License v1.1 providing everyone with a reliable, open source alternative under a neutral governance model,” the foundation said in a statement.
The name is deliberately playful says Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman from the OpenTofu founding team, who is also co-founder of Gruntwork. “I'm glad your reaction was to laugh. That's a good thing. We're trying to keep things a little more humorous,” Brikman told TechCrunch, but the group is dead serious when it comes to building an open fork.
Brikman said HashiCorp left the splinter group with little choice but to launch the fork: “HashiCorp, give them full credit, did an incredible job getting the project to where it is today. But core building blocks like Terraform have to always be open source. That's just a fundamental belief that all of us have -- and it was shocking when the license was changed to a non-open source license,” he said.
Terraform gives developers the ability to treat infrastructure as code and describe how the application and the infrastructure work together, saving oodles of time previously spent coding.
In addition to Gruntwork, the other members of the founding group include Harness Labs, Scalr, Env0 and Spacelift, all companies that rely on the open source version of Terraform as a basic building block of their companies. Jyoti Bansal, co-founder and CEO of Harness, says the founding companies are doing what they need to do to ensure the project stayed open.
“Terraform has been a popular open source project for almost a decade. We wanted to do the right thing for the community and support a project that provides an alternative that will still be owned by the community. Having OpenTofu now part of the Linux Foundation, and on its way to being accepted by CNCF, ensures that this important project will continue to be open source,” Bansal said.
As for HashiCorp, it feels it was doing what it needed to do to protect a core piece of its business. Writing in an August 10th blog post, HashiCorp co-founder Armon Dadgar explained the reasoning for the change:
Our approach has enabled us to partner closely with the cloud providers to enable tight integration for our joint users and customers, as well as hundreds of other technology partners we work closely with. However, there are other vendors who take advantage of pure OSS models, and the community work on OSS projects, for their own commercial goals, without providing material contributions back. We don’t believe this is in the spirit of open source.
Brikman understands that for the project to be successful, it will need to attract bigger companies, but he believes that will happen over time as the project begins achieving milestones and gains traction in the community.
The goal is to maintain compatibility for the time being with whatever HashiCorp is doing, but Brikman sees a time when the project fork adds some pieces that could separate it from what HashiCorp has built, and he’s OK with that.
He says the big players like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are currently in a wait and see mode, but they are in talks and the plan is to get them to see that they are serious about this, and draw them in over time. “I don't think there's any magic answer other than to execute, set up the project the right way, and start winning them over one at a time and then you'll get a herd eventually, and that's exactly what we're working on now,” he said.
That involves a public roadmap with a plan for an alpha release, and then go from there. “The first thing was to get an alpha release out there. So you can go to the OpenTofu website and download OpenTofu and start using it and trying it out,” he said.
“Then the next thing is a stable release. That's coming in the very near future, but there's work to do. Once you have a stable release, people can start using it. Then we can start growing adoption, and once we start growing adoption, some of the big players will start stepping in when some of the big players start stepping in other big players will start stepping in as well.”