Sep 19, 2023 3 min read

HashiCorp Changes from MPL to BSL

HashiCorp Changes from MPL to BSL

In August of 2023, HashiCorp changed its licensing model from MPL v2.0 (Mozilla Public License) to BSL v1.1 (Business Source License).

What does this mean? It means that HashiCorp products (Terraform, Vault, Consul, etc...) are no longer open source.

How does it affect us? Essentially, for typical end-users, HashiCorp integration partners, and HashiCorp commercial customers, there is no change. Products can be downloaded for free and used as needed. However, organizations that compete with HashiCorp will no longer be able to use the free community editions of HashiCorp products and instead will have to license the products.

To read more about the licensing change, see this link.

How does the community feel about this? Feelings are mixed. For many organizations and individual users, there is no change, and so their view of HashiCorp hasn't changed much. For some organizations, the new BSL can be considered somewhat vague, and those organizations are forced to seek legal counsel. For organizations that have competitive offerings (and in some cases, have contributed to Terraform), there has been concern, confusion, anger, as well as fear. They contend that using the MPL as a way to grow a product line, and later changing to BSL, is dishonest, and exploits the open source community. In fact, they feel so strongly that several organizations have banded together to form the OpenTF Foundation. They have created a Terraform fork called OpenTofu (also known as OpenTF). (No plans for other HashiCorp tools as of the writing of this article—September, 2023.)

How do I feel? This is where it becomes opinion. Take it as you will.

As an advocate of open source software, I am always saddened when an organization chooses to change licensing from truly open source to something else.

Now, we can debate over what is truly open source, but I'll leave that for another time, and for smarter minds than mine...

As a user of HashiCorp products (including Terraform, Vault, Consul, Waypoint, Nomad, and Vagrant), I am unhappy, but not surprised. This move was contemplated for years and is not unprecedented. In fact, it has become a trend among tech companies over the past decade.

Like I say, I'm not surprised. The company has the word corp right in their name. They are a publicly traded company. They are in it to make money. But that doesn't make the pill any easier to swallow.

In my honest opinion, open source products should only be created and maintained by non-profit organizations. Utopian? Sure, but there it is.

As of now, I will continue to use HashiCorp products for personal projects and with customers who use them. However, I will also keep an eye out for what OpenTF amounts to over the coming months/years. I will also keep an open mind about alternatives to HashiCorp products—Terraform especially. But ultimately, the decision for me is mostly defined by the products that my customers work with—the products that are heavily used in the field.

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