Getty Images

Linux Foundation ups ante on HashiCorp, hosts Terraform fork

All eyes are on HashiCorp's response now that a community-driven fork of its Terraform infrastructure as code tool has been officially relaunched as a Linux Foundation project.

A little over a month after HashiCorp disclosed its intention to change the licensing on its previously open source tools, The Linux Foundation officially entered the fray by bringing a forked version of Terraform into its fold.

The Terraform fork, first known as OpenTF, was renamed OpenTofu this week and officially relaunched as a Linux Foundation project. OpenTF formed in the wake of HashiCorp's statement of intention to move to a business source license (BSL) for all of its software products on Aug. 10. Since then, the consortium has amassed formal pledges of support from more than 140 corporations and 600 individuals, including 18 full-time engineers committed to maintaining it.

OpenTF organizers had said their goal was to donate the fork to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), of which HashiCorp is a member. A statement from CNCF CTO Chris Aniszczyk in a Linux Foundation press release this week referred to collaboration with CNCF on the project but didn't give any details on what that collaboration will look like.

Sebastian Stadil, founder and CEO, ScalrSebastian Stadil

OpenTF organizers previously called on HashiCorp to reverse its licensing decision for Terraform, but with this move, that is no longer a possibility.

"We'd love to see them join OpenTofu," said Sebastian Stadil, founder and CEO at Scalr, one of the founding members of OpenTF, when asked if it's too late for HashiCorp to reverse its decision now. "We welcome all contributors to the community."

OpenTofu pressures HashiCorp

HashiCorp officials have not commented publicly on the Terraform fork or the industry's response to its BSL change. Whether the vendor responds publicly, IT professionals predicted this will put pressure on it to ensure that its closed-source version doesn't lose ground to OpenTofu.

Kyler Middleton, senior principal software engineer, VeradigmKyler Middleton

"I do think HashiCorp underestimated how strongly folks feel about open source software," said Kyler Middleton, senior principal software engineer at healthcare tech company Veradigm. "The official sponsorship of The Linux Foundation provides some very exciting name recognition. … I think HashiCorp is feeling the heat a little bit."

Another spectator to the HashiCorp Terraform drama said the vendor will need to contend with OpenTofu from now on.

"They're going to need to offer some really compelling reasons for users to go with Terraform and not OpenTofu. And it's the latter project that has all the momentum right now," said Anders Eknert, a developer advocate at Styra, a commercial backer of CNCF's Open Policy Agent project.

Regardless of how HashiCorp responds to OpenTofu, the BSL decision has made its mark on users.

"For me personally, some of the sparkle has worn off of HashiCorp," said Middleton, who is also a member of the HashiCorp Ambassadors program, a group that gets inside access to HashiCorp's releases and a chance to influence development of its tools.

"I feel like the BSL change for their products is a business-first decision, and not a user-first decision," she said. "HashiCorp has a long history of putting their users first, and it doesn't feel very good for this to change in this way."

They're going to need to offer some really compelling reasons for users to go with Terraform and not OpenTofu. And it's the latter project that has all the momentum right now.
Anders EknertDeveloper advocate, Styra

HashiCorp still has the benefit of being an incumbent vendor for many enterprises and the originator of Terraform, said Donnie Berkholz, founder and chief analyst at Platify Insights, a tech industry analysis firm. But he agreed OpenTofu represents a threat to HashiCorp if it stops putting in effort on product development.

"If users can start getting features for free in OpenTofu that they would've had to pay HashiCorp a huge amount to access in their enterprise product, and those are truly critical, that could shift [things]," Berkholz said.

The fact that OpenTofu now operates as an official Linux Foundation project will spur momentum for the fork, Berkholz predicted.

"It's a clear step to indicate the intent of vendor-neutrality, and strengthen the contrast against Terraform's vendor-controlled model," he said. "[OpenTofu's] use of the Developer Certificate of Origin is another strong step to raise the barrier to any potential for future relicensing."

Middleton said her organization is still hesitant to deploy the Terraform fork but will continue to watch how OpenTofu develops.

"Open source is a powerful force, and I think it will gain enough momentum to self-sustain," she said.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

Dig Deeper on Systems automation and orchestration

Software Quality
App Architecture
Cloud Computing
Data Center