Authors Jeffrey Rayport (founder and chairman of Marketspace, the advisory firm that published the report) and Andrew Heyward (former president of CBS News) define the cloud in its broadest sense as including everything from Hotmail and Facebook to Amazon Web Services and Google App Engine. They present cloud computing in big, bold terms, arguing that it's in the national interests of the United States to adopt pro-cloud policies. "It's high time to ensure that the cloud's promise as an opportunity for U.S. wealth generation, job creation, and business and technology leadership does not pass our country by," they write.
The authors note that cloud computing can be beneficial to consumers and businesses alike, and they write that, for businesses, the cloud's greatest benefit may be infrastructure on demand. Among the potential economic benefits they point to: new business opportunities and markets made possible by lower-cost, high-end computing; the elimination of data center startup and maintenance costs; real-time collaboration, and more.
The report devotes some attention to the challenges and potential pitfalls of cloud computing--reliability, security, privacy, etc.--but not nearly as much as to all the grand possibilities. "The promise of cloud computing could be bigger than the Web," the authors write. "Objectively speaking, it's a substantially more profound development, as it arguably extends the ultimate promise of an interconnected world to deliver the benefits of high-powered computers and communications to all."
The report wasn't written but Google, but Google obviously endorsed it. Bob Boorstin, Google's director of corporate and policy communications, blogged about the report in a post titled, "What policymakers should know about cloud computing."
What should the role of the U.S. government be in advancing cloud computing? The authors stop short of calling for any specific action, arguing instead that policy makers create "optimal conditions" for this emerging market by ensuring broadband access, fighting cybercrime, and maintaining a level playing field for Internet access.
They also have one other suggestion--that the U.S. government become an early adopter of cloud services. We're already watching to see where and when that happens.