I am a mechanical engineer and have rolled my own applications and done much of the systems administration for twenty years for my small online services company. Working on an ambitious .NET project and with little previous experience with SQL Server, I wanted to get comfortable with the physical implementation of relational data bases while I was still doing the logical data base design using Embarcadero. This book met all my needs and was enjoyable to read.
The book has 850 pages and has a CD with a 120-day evaluation copy of SQL Server 2000. The code for the exercises is available for downloading from the SAMS site. The organization is chronological, with steps ordered pretty much as you would do them if you were installing, setting up and administering a new SQL Server installation. You should be comfortable in a Windows 2000 or NT environment and have done some prior work with a database before attempting this book which is written for computer professionals.
The book did not seem like a typical SAMS Teach Yourself book, which are very useful as tutorials but often poorly arranged and indexed as references. This book together with the exhaustive and detailed SQL Server Books Online (the Microsoft SQL Server manual on the CD) will be all of the references you will need for physical data base design and administration. You will need other references for logical design of a relational data base and for the other platform technologies such as ASP.NET and VB.NET that you may use to do a full application.
I was pleased with the exercises. Each stood alone for the most part, allowing me to jump around a bit and still do those exercises that were useful to me. I was also pleased with the section on security. Security is a subject that I usually dread, but here it was covered in some detail but very clearly.
The author is a senior Microsoft SQL Server team member.