Competition pushes us to excel, and two SQL Server-related contests might be just what you need to stretch your SQL Server skills. SQL Server Magazine is currently soliciting entries for the 4th Annual Innovator Awards. Entries are due by August 1. As one of the judges, I can offer you a tip: The secret is in the name of the award--Innovator. The biggest and fastest SQL Server doesn't necessarily win the prize. Several past winners have beat out the competition with SQL Server solutions that are relatively small in terms of the actual number of users they serve. We're looking for SQL Server professionals who've done something unique with SQL Server. In addition to the award, the Grand Prize winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to the SQL Server Magazine Connections conference in Las Vegas this November. SQL Server Magazine is hosting the conference the same week that Microsoft is launching SQL Server 2005. I'm the conference chair and selected the sessions, so I know the conference will be jam packed with really cool SQL Server 2005 content! You can find more information about the SQL Server Magazine Innovator Awards and submit your entry at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=E808:7B3DB and you can learn more about the Connections conference at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=E80A:7B3DB .

You might also be interested in Microsoft's "Cost Chopper Competition". Microsoft is giving away a custom Chopper--valued at approximately $50,000--to the contestant with the "highest value" Oracle-to-SQL Server migration story. Entries must be received by September 30. Here's a summary of the judging criteria directly from the Microsoft Web site:

Technical Excellence (100 points)

- Innovative use of SQL Server Migration Assistant and SQL Server

- Migration Best Practices

- Speed of Migration

Impact (100 points)

- Cost Savings

- Performance Benefits

- Mission Critical Nature of System

Scale (100 points)

- Size of Database

- Volume of Database Usage

- Level of Complexity of Pre-Migration Environment

You can find a complete set of rules at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=E811:7B3DB . That's one sweet bike, as Napoleon Dynamite might say! Other great prizes include American Express gift reward cards and a Hewlett-Packard Tablet PC. Visit http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=E815:7B3DB to learn more and enter the contest. The winner will be chosen at the SQL Server 2005 launch event in San Francisco this November.