Got Terraform? A perspective on recent HashiCorp license changes

By: Brad Parks

On Aug. 10th, 2023, HashiCorp announced a move away from the open-source model that has made Terraform a popular Infrastructure-as-Code choice. The move from a Mozilla Public License (MPL) to a Business Source License (BSL) has raised many questions from the community of customers, partners, and vendors who have integrated with HashiCorp technologies. This post presents a perspective on the impact and opportunity for Morpheus customers and technology partners.

First, a level set on Morpheus and where we play in the IT landscape. Morpheus was born as a unified orchestration and automation platform to help simplify and streamline the consumption of infrastructure including the integration of tools and technology used by Enterprises to modernize applications and manage IT Ops.

The platform natively integrates with dozens of hypervisors and public cloud technologies providing the ability to provision VMs, application instances, networks, storage, and other resources out-of-the-box with no dependency on external scripting or Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) technologies such as Terraform.   However, as a unified platform framework, we strive to help customers make the most of their technology investments and provide integration into external technologies such as Terraform, Ansible, ServiceNow, and other 3rd party tools.

How does Morpheus integrate with HashiCorp Terraform?

Morpheus does not depend on, embed, or provide a managed service for HashiCorp Terraform in any way. So why the blog?

For customers who utilize Terraform, Morpheus can represent Terraform Plans as spec templates for instances and blueprint types within the Morpheus service catalog. We then can reference those in the same way that we provide a self-service interface for users to provision VMs, Containers, and Cloud-Native services across any private and public cloud. These Terraform Plan templates can be updated and maintained upstream in SCM such as Git and pulled into Morpheus to enable GitOps style workflow or can be updated and maintained directly within Morpheus. Users can trigger the execution of Morpheus catalog items via GUI, API/CLI, ITSM Catalog, or other methods. Once provisioned, Morpheus can maintain the state, detect drift, and refresh the state of resources provisioned from those Terraform templates.

Many customers who leverage the Morpheus integration with Terraform have manually provisioned Terraform themselves and simply reference that runtime within their Morpheus settings.  For HashiCorp Terraform v1.5.5 and earlier which were released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), Morpheus can automate the installation of Terraform if customers have not manually installed it already.  However, given the move to BSL, Morpheus will not automate the installation of Terraform for future versions.  We can and will continue to provide customers the ability to leverage their Terraform work in future versions by integrating with the Terraform runtime that they have installed.

What does the HashiCorp announcement mean for Morpheus customers?

On the one hand, the announcement may mean very little change.  Morpheus will continue to help customers leverage their Terraform investments; we simply will not automate the installation of Terraform in HashiCorp Terraform versions under the BSL.  If initiatives like OpenTF pick up momentum within our install base, we will evaluate integration with those Forked branches similar to how we also integrate Morpheus app templates with other IaC frameworks such as AWS CloudFormation, Microsoft ARM, or Kubernetes HELM.  Our goal is to unify and streamline the use of these technologies, not compete with them.

On the other hand, we have talked to many customers who recognize and take advantage of Morpheus ability to natively perform many of the activities that require scripting via tools such as Ansible or Terraform. Morpheus has been providing its own DSL for Infrastructure-as-Code for many years and has deep expertise in HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL) including our contribution to the open-source community of HCL4J, a popular utility for parsing HCL and converting to Map objects. We will continue to monitor the situation with HashiCorp Terraform and OpenTF but see this as an opportunity to provide even more native functionality within Morpheus to minimize the need for external scripting.

The increasing importance of a unified abstraction model in hybrid cloud platform operations

The decision by HashiCorp to change the rules along with the acquisition of VMware by Broadcom has put Enterprises, Service Providers, and the tech industry as a whole on notice while shining a spotlight on the importance of integration and abstraction.

IT is complex by nature and resources are finite. Nothing profound in that statement except to say that the only scalable model for dealing in an increasingly heterogeneous world where skills gaps abound is to invest in centralized platforms that can bridge the gap between tools, technology, people, and process.

This is likely one reason Morpheus has seen exponential growth in the last several quarters.  Being able to blueprint once and then provision into VMware, Nutanix, Microsoft, AWS, Azure, and GCP with a single unified API/CLI and GUI provides insulation against the whims of hypervisor, cloud, and other tooling providers.  The same is true with IaC and automation; one day teams may be using Chef and the next Ansible, or HashiCorp’s decision on Terraform could pave the way for yet another IaC poster child. 

We’d love to learn your thoughts on the topic.  For more information or to setup a personalized Morpheus demo visit www.morpheusdata.com/demo.

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