In the wake of the Great Recession back in 2008, the stock market got hooked on cloud computing. The new cloud IT infrastructure -- the backbone of what has become known as software-as-a-service (SaaS) -- fueled a boom in profitability for early adopters. Cloud computing growth is still alive and well and should continue expanding for the foreseeable future. 

But after more than a decade of low capital expenditures on tech infrastructure thanks to the cloud, internet technology is evolving again. Often referred to as "the metaverse," data traveling across the web and into and out of the cloud is booming. Big Tech is leading the charge, with Meta Platforms (META 2.67%) most notably boosting its spending on this effort - and taking heat for it.

But Meta Platforms is not alone. Strap in for a resurgence in tech infrastructure spending by a number of companies in the coming years -- and get ready to profit from suppliers of metaverse equipment.

Meta sacrifices big profits for capex, but it's not alone

Meta has tantalized shareholders this year with profits that could be -- if not for CEO Mark Zuckerberg's insistence on investing in the metaverse. Purchases of property and equipment (capital expenditures, or simply "capex") was a whopping $9.4 billion in Q3, more than double the $4.4 billion at the same time last year. Most of this spending spree is on data centers and related chip equipment.  

For full-year 2022, capex is expected to be in the range of $32 billion to $33 billion before jumping to $34 billion to $39 billion in 2023. Meta says AI and data centers are driving this boom in capex spending. While Meta's capex is taking the heat, it's really everyone that's investing for the metaverse -- basically, the next wave of web- and cloud-based innovation.

Alphabet (GOOGL 0.83%) (GOOG 0.72%) is investing heavily in data centers and artificial intelligence (AI) this year to support things like mobile camera-based search (Google Lens and DeepMind AI, for example). Its capex was $23.9 billion in the first nine months of 2022, a 31% year-over-year increase.

Amazon's (AMZN -0.17%) total capex was $59.4 billion over the past 12 months, a 14% increase from the same period last year. AWS cloud segment operating expenses specifically have led the charge, jumping 32% through the first nine months of 2022.

Microsoft's (MSFT 0.74%) spending has been the tamest among big tech. Capex jumped 5% over the last reported 12-month period, including an 8% year-over-year rise to $6.28 billion in its fiscal 2023 first quarter (for the three months ended September).

How should investors bridge the "capex gap"?

Other companies outside of big tech are also spending on new equipment that will support next-gen web-based technology. The takeaway here is that there's a huge boom taking place in tech infrastructure. It's putting pressure on profits at companies making the purchases, but it will be a tailwind for the suppliers.

Nvidia (NVDA 2.57%) is one of them. Though it's having issues with its video game segment, data center sales have been rocketing higher. Nvidia data center sales were up 61% to $3.8 billion in the last reported quarter. With tech giants ramping up their capex on equipment, Nvidia has a lot more to gain in this department.  

Qualcomm (QCOM 4.26%) could be another beneficiary, but not for the data centers themselves. Once the computing backbone of the future internet is built, new mobile devices will be needed to take advantage of the metaverse. Right now, that means smartphones with a 5G mobile network chip in them. But later on, that could also mean augmented and virtual reality headsets (Qualcomm supplies the processors for Meta's Quest VR devices). Qualcomm's IoT segment, which houses AR/VR devices, grew 31% year over year last quarter to $1.8 billion.  

Meta has become a recent punching bag for outsize spending on the metaverse, but it is far from alone in investing in the future of the internet. For big tech shareholders, the process can be painful as it means deteriorating profit margins. But in the interim, investing in metaverse suppliers could help bridge the gap as they expand from booming capital expenditures into data centers, related equipment, and the development of new devices.