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Linux Foundation to Fork HashiCorp Terraform into ‘OpenTofu’

The name OpenTofu may sound silly, but the Linux Foundation is quite serious about this Terraform fork. The project team is also looking into the possibility of becoming a CNCF Sandbox project
Sep 20th, 2023 10:52am by
Featued image for: Linux Foundation to Fork HashiCorp Terraform into ‘OpenTofu’
Feature image by B. Cameron Gain.
This story was updated to include additional information about OpenTofu activities.

BILBAO, SPAIN — When HashiCorp opted out of its open source license for the Business Source License (BSL) for its flagship program, infrastructure as code (IaC) tool, Terraform, many expected some opposition from the open source community. But how many expected to see a full-fledged Terraform fork coming?  Or, that it would be Linux Foundation that would launch the fork: called OpenTofu.

When the OpenTF announced its opposition to Terraform’s shift from the Mozilla Public License v2.0 (MPLv2) to the BSL v1.1, many people dismissed its subsequent fork plans as sour grapes and doomed to failure. With the Linux Foundation behind it and major Terraform users such as insurance giant Allianz and major Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider ExpressVPN announcing they were moving to OpenTofu, the new fork is on its way to success.

OpenTofu promises to be a community-centric, modular, and backward-compatible successor to the MPLv2-licensed Terraform. The project has already garnered support from such IaC companies as Harness, Gruntwork, Spacelift, env0, Scalr, and many more. Over 140 organizations and 600 individuals have pledged their commitment to OpenTofu, ensuring a robust development team for at least the next half-decade.

Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation‘s Executive Director, said in his Open Source Summit Europe keynote, “OpenTofu embodies our collective dedication to genuine open collaboration in infrastructure as code. It stands as a testament to our shared goal of delivering dependable, accessible tools for the tech world.” Zemlin added, “OpenTofu’s dedication to open source principles underscores our shared vision of providing accessible, reliable tools that empower the tech community.”

Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), said that the OpenTofu is looking into joining the CNCF as sandbox project. Aniszczyk added, “We also look forward to their collaboration with the CNCF community.”

Before this, Zemlin said that while HashiCorp’s license change is disturbing, he thinks it’s because “in the last few years, there was a lot of private equity investment in open source. Venture capitalists looked for popular open source projects and started pumping in capital. They used open sources as a way to go to market. This enabled them to sell commercial products off the open source project. Now, most of those companies are maturing, they might have hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and have grown significantly.” Now they want to cash out, and “open-source is no longer working as an ongoing basis for them. It’s their prerogative to do so.”

Of course, this is bad news for open source projects. Zemlin suggests that open source developers look away from single-company open-source projects that claim your code’s copyright.

Instead, as Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman, Co-founder and CEO of Gruntwork, and OpenTofu founding team member, said, “We believe that the essential building blocks of the modern internet — tools such as Linux, Kubernetes, and Terraform — must be truly open source. That is the only way to ensure that we are building our industry on top of solid and predictable underpinnings.” Thus, in OpenTF’s specific case, “having this project in the hands of a foundation, rather than a single company, means OpenTofu will be community-driven and truly open source — always.”

Zemlin concluded, “What I think we’re seeing is a good lesson for all of us. The idea of open governance and an open source license is the sweet spot enabling commercial organizations to invest confidently in the codebase.”

The OpenTF, now OpenTufu founders, are gobsmacked by the rapid pace of their project’s advancement. As Sebastian Stadil, Scalr CEO, said at the conference keynote, “It’s just so hard to believe that all of this started just five weeks ago.” Looking ahead,  the next major step will be the release of the code itself. The new codebase should appear within the next few weeks.

Oh, and that name? OpenTofu was chosen to avoid any possible legal trademark problems with Terraform. As Stadil explained, “HashiCorp has been super aggressive in sending cease-and-desist out to folks. We thought TF was a little bit too close to Terraform.”

HashiCorp has declined to respond publicly to this matter.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Spacelift.
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