Usually worse, it seems most people use chef or puppet. I understand what you are saying, but I am saying I believe otherwise. Operations has always relied heavily on automation. We managed several thousand unix machines with 3 or 4 people back in the 90s and it was totally normal. Devops started for the same reason cloud started: to put a new buzzword on what people have done forever, so that it can be sold as a new silver bullet.
I'm just not that cynical. We're all tempted to grow cynical after a number of years in this business, but you don't have to let it color your whole world. :-)
Yes, we had automation in the '90s — I wrote quite a bit of it myself! — but the landscape has drastically improved. For one thing, the industry is now embracing it, and with the embrace, a name. The name is not being "sold" in any way that I can see — no one is getting rich by bandying around the buzzword. It's not being sold by anyone I'm aware of as some kind of silver bullet, and anyone who believes in an IT panacea deserves what he gets. It is however being used to sell an idea, that automation in the '90s and before was a good thing, and that we should probably do more of it. DevOps means more than just automation, and in large part, these are also improvements in the industry. We're better now, partly because we have to be.
For that matter, the cloud is just a name that describes the commodification of computing resources (whether that be actual compute, storage, whatever). Yes, yes, the marketing blowhards of the world have misused and bastardized the word, but that doesn't mean they've ruined it, or that it never meant anything.
It has nothing to do with cynicism. This is literally taking an existing industry, and slapping a new name on it to sell products, consulting, etc. Go look at any of the current product's websites. Which ones demonstrate an understanding that automation is as old as computers? Cause they certainly all look to me like they want to give the impression that they invented the concept, so you should buy their broken pile of ruby scripts instead of the other guy's broken pile of ruby scripts.
The IT operations industry is not dying. Automation is old, but this isn't being billed as "new." What's new is 1) it being widespread, which despite your contention, has not been the case, and 2) automation via open source frameworks and tools, of which there has previously been a dearth.
I have no idea why you think Chef and Puppet are broken piles of ruby scripts, but for the record, they're free. Also, in neither case is anyone implying or saying that they invented automation. Having a nice framework to use is a definite improvement, though.