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.