I can hear the groan's already at the bad pun embodied in the title of this essay. (Here's the cross-cultural deconstruction. First, there's the capitalized "IT" for information technology. Then, there's the reference to energy efficient computing ("green"). However, the cultural reference is to the Muppet Show and Kermit the Frog, whose refrain often was, "It's not easy being green.")
Contrary to the pun, actually, it is easy to be green, if one wants to do so. This is a point I tried to make in an interview that is part of a series InsideHPC has begun on green computing. In the interview, I discussed the challenges and opportunities associated with energy efficient computing at scale, whether operating large-scale data centers or petascale high-performance computing systems.
In the interview, I pointed out that the most obvious way to reduce computing-related energy consumption is simply to power down and turn off those systems not being used -- QED. However, that is insufficient alone. After all, one presumably wants to do some computing. Thus, systems and infrastructure must be designed for energy and operational efficiency and must be managed appropriately during operation.
As a practical matter, one really wants to maximize a ratio
(Effective operations)/(Cost times Watts)
Simply put, the goal is to maximize the number of effective operations relative to cost and energy consumption. This convolves many ideas, including the match of the application to the system (application execution efficiency), the system design and architecture, energy and power supply efficiency, packaging and cooling overhead, market costs for power and hardware and the costs of people and money.
Microsoft is absolutely committed to green computing, across its entire range of products and infrastructure, and a big portion of my team's research is related to developing more energy efficient computing systems at scale.