Open Terraform? Okay. Open Source Community betrayal?! Meh.

Did HashiCorp 'betray' Open Source by changing Terraform's licensing? It doesn't matter if enough people think they did.
Did HashiCorp ‘betray’ Open Source by changing Terraform’s licensing? It doesn’t matter if enough people think they did. (Generated by Bing Images)

I’m getting flashbacks from two years ago when Elasticsearch changed its license and a bunch of companies that had been offering Elasticsearch as a service (or at least incorporating that service) were forced to fork the last open-licensed version. I remember writing the responses and going over the arguments’ back-and-forth between pro-ES and pro-OS. But let’s clear up a few things.

Anything that was built on the open license prior to the new license is legally protected. You can’t be forced to stop offering that service. You might even have a new side service to offer customers if you need to assist them in migrating from the previously open-source tool. It’s more a question for companies if Terraform will cause them legal (i.e., financial) trouble that have those on-top-of-open-terraform products exist – which is theoretical anyway.

The real problem is always about compatibility, falling behind the updates that will come in later.

Logz and Amazon (and a few others) forked Elasticsearch when they moved from the Apache2 license. So this is kind of par of the course. We had to sort of ‘soft relaunch’ Logz – along with some brand messaging about OSS – when it ‘relaunched’ using OpenSearch. Logz weren’t avoid contributing to the open Elasticsearch repo, by the way. I can’t speak for the other companies, but Logz wasn’t mooching.

But that issue aside, license changes like this are hurricanes of marketing flurry! It’s like a nice, hot, steaming bowl of drama soup that content writers get to sink their teeth into – I helped write some of the blogs that came after the initial Elasticsearch announcement, so really it was a time to shine and hone the company’s messaging.

hashtag#Note: Not to understate how many people are upset whenever a company uses an open source license to get free input from developers, but there is something to companies overstating their own anger. That being said, yeah, on the one hand it feels like feigning outrage – of course it’s the companies that are going to be more angry about the license change. At the same time, many individuals that can contribute to a project are often being paid to contribute by a company using that open-source repo.

It will always be the companies that have the clout to launch a project fork. That’s what’s happening with OpenTF – forked the original repo, then redid it as an independent entity.

In any case, since this entire thing is triggering my muscle memory, I feel the need to end this post with a CTA:

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