I want a "high performance" server where I can run perhaps MySQL and also different types of batch jobs. I want high performance CPUs (lots of cache, etc.) and as much RAM as possible (e.g., 64 GB) for cheap.
By looking at sites where I can buy used servers I found that one can buy a HP ProLiant XX for a reasonable price but I have no experience with servers. I am reasonably good with Linux and working with PCs but I have no idea if this experience is transferable.
It also seems like there are a lot of Cloud services available for cheap but I would rather do it myself. (I mostly want to learn!)
What do I need to get started?
Do I need a rack, or can I just put it on a desk?
Can I just put in a 64-bit Linux dist on a bootable USB and install, say, Ubuntu as I do on a PC?
Any sort of resource akin to "Servers for Dummies" concerning both hardware and software aspects is greatly appreciated! Its a bit funny that I have a Masters degree in Computer Science but don't really know where to start.