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What the Terraform License Change Means for DevOps

Terraform will transition to Business Source License (BSL) v1.1, a non-open source license, starting from its next major version.

Nov 16, 2023
Chandler Mayo Avatar
Chandler Mayo
Senior Developer Advocate
What the Terraform License Change Means for DevOps
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What the Terraform License Change Means for DevOps


  • HashiCorp has announced a shift in Terraform's licensing terms from open-source to non-open-source.
  • This change has raised concerns about the accessibility and functionality of Terraform and the future of open-source software.
  • The community has responded with initiatives like OpenTF to maintain an open-source version of Terraform.
  • Companies adapt to the license change by exploring alternatives and strategies to mitigate its impact on their operations.

Terraform, a renowned infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tool, has been a cornerstone in the DevOps landscape, enabling software teams to define, launch, and manage infrastructure with code. However, in a pivotal move, HashiCorp, the company behind Terraform, recently announced a significant shift in Terraform's licensing. After years of being part of the open-source community under the MPL v2 license, Terraform will transition to a new license. HashiCorp Terraform will transition to Business Source License (BSL) v1.1, a non-open source license, starting from its next major version. If you use Terraform 1.5 or earlier, there's no immediate need for action since these versions are licensed under MPL.

The Impact of Terraform Going Private

This decision has sent ripples through the software industry, raising critical questions and concerns among developers, DevOps professionals, and business leaders. In this blog post, we'll delve into the implications of Terraform's licensing change, how it impacts the broader open-source ecosystem, and, most importantly, how your secrets in Doppler will be available wherever you need them, regardless of the tools you use.

Reasons for HashiCorp's License Change

The decision by HashiCorp to shift Terraform from an open-source model under MPL 2.0 to a non-open-source BSL v1.1 has been rooted in strategic business considerations. This move, as discussed on HashiCorp's official blog, is seen as a way to balance the company's needs with those of the community and Terraform users. However, it's essential to understand the underlying reasons for this shift and how it aligns with HashiCorp's long-term vision for Terraform, including its wide array of providers and integrations with cloud providers like AWS.

Immediate Implications

The immediate impact of this licensing change is significant. It has caused a stir within the DevOps community, particularly those relying heavily on Terraform for infrastructure management. Concerns range from the future accessibility of Terraform's features to potential restrictions on the tool's usage in specific environments, including popular platforms such as AWS and Microsoft Azure. The change also raises questions about the sustainability of Open source software (OSS) when commercial interests come into play and how this affects Terraform's functionality, especially regarding automation and integration with APIs.

Long-Term Considerations

The decision to privatize Terraform's license could have far-reaching effects on the open-source ecosystem. This move may set a precedent for other open-source projects, potentially influencing how they are managed and licensed. Furthermore, it could alter the dynamics of community contributions and the spirit of collaborative development that has long been a hallmark of open-source software. Understanding these implications is crucial for businesses and developers as they navigate the evolving landscape of software development tools, including considerations for future releases and the ongoing development of commercial products like Terraform Cloud.

The Community Response

Open Source Initiatives

The community has galvanized to preserve its open-source nature in response to Terraform's license change. Key among these efforts is OpenTofu (previously named OpenTF), a community-driven project that aims to create a fork of Terraform and maintain it as an open-source tool. This initiative signifies the community's commitment to open source and its resilience in the face of significant changes by major industry players, including focusing on maintaining a rich ecosystem of Terraform providers and supporting various use cases.

Industry Reaction

The industry's reaction to Terraform's license change has been varied. Companies like env0 and DuploCloud have openly expressed their concerns and outlined their plans to adapt to these changes. Their insights offer valuable perspectives on how businesses can navigate this shift, considering alternatives and strategies to mitigate potential impacts on their operations and DevOps practices, particularly about cloud providers, the automation of workflows, and the integration of Terraform with other tools and APIs.

Doppler's Perspective and Solutions

At Doppler, we closely monitor the evolving landscape of DevOps tools and their licensing models. The shift in Terraform's approach from open-source to a more proprietary model presents challenges and opportunities for the software industry, including Doppler and our users.

Doppler's Stance on Open Source

The open-source model is crucial in developing robust, secure, and versatile tools in the DevOps space. As such, our stance in the wake of Terraform's license change is to continue supporting open-source initiatives and providing our users with flexible, compatible solutions, including alternatives to proprietary software like other HashiCorp products.

Doppler's Unique Offerings

Doppler's suite of tools is designed to complement and enhance the capabilities of infrastructure management tools, whether open-source or proprietary. We focus on simplifying secret management, streamlining configuration processes, and ensuring that your infrastructure is managed efficiently and securely, regardless of the underlying IaC tool. This includes offering solutions that align with the Linux Foundation's standards for open-source software and ensuring compatibility with APIs and various SaaS offerings.

How Doppler Supports the Transition

In the wake of Terraform's transition to a private model, Doppler is committed to providing robust support and solutions to help businesses adapt smoothly. Our tools are designed to maintain operational efficiency and aid in the transition to alternative infrastructure management solutions.

Ease of Integration

Doppler's platform is built with integration in mind. We offer seamless compatibility with a wide range of DevOps tools, ensuring that switching from Terraform to other infrastructure-as-code solutions is hassle-free. The Doppler provider is fully compatible with OpenTofu (previously named OpenTF), the open-source fork of Terraform. You can replace terraform with tofu in any example commands to accomplish the same outcomes. Our documentation, available at Doppler's Integration Guides, provides comprehensive instructions for integrating Doppler with various DevOps tools. This makes the transition smooth and straightforward, even for end users with specific use cases.

Terraform License Change FAQ

Why did Terraform’s license change?

Terraform's license changed from MPL v2 to Business Source License (BSL) v1.1, a non-open source license, due to strategic business considerations by HashiCorp, aiming to balance company needs with community and user interests.

Are there any alternatives to Terraform now that it's not open-source?

Yes, in response to Terraform's license change, the community initiated OpenTofu (previously OpenTF), aiming to maintain an open-source version of Terraform, showing the community's resilience and commitment to open-source software.

Should I still use Terraform after the license change?

The decision to continue using Terraform after its license change depends on individual or organizational preferences and needs. The industry is adapting by exploring alternatives and strategies to mitigate the impact, suggesting a considered approach based on specific use cases and requirements.

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