The Microsoft Driver 4.0 for PHP for SQL Server is an early technical preview, and gives you access to SQL Server, Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL DW from any PHP 7 application.
The main change to the new version is support for PHP 7, and it includes both threadsafe and non-threadsafe support. The developers plan on adding PDO Support to future releases, along with plans for a port, more support for SQL Server 2016 features such as being able to handle "Always Encrypted" data.
The preview is available on Github.
Another example of Microsoft's drive to be inclusive in the options for accessing SQL Server is the community technology preview of Microsoft ODBC Driver 13 for SQL Server on Windows and Linux, supporting Ubuntu, RedHat and SUSE distributions. The developers say the updated driver provides robust data access to Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Azure SQL Database via ODBC on Windows and Linux platforms.
The main improvement to the updated ODBC driver is the ability to use Always Encrypted. This is a new SQL Server 2016 and Azure SQL Database security feature designed to safeguard sensitive data from being seen in plain text in a SQL Server instance. It lets you transparently encrypt the data in the application, so that SQL Server will only handle the encrypted data and not plain text values.
This means that should the SQL instance or the host machine be compromised, the attacker sees encrypted ciphertext of the sensitive data. However, if you want to use the Always Encrypted feature, you have to use a supported driver such as ADO.NET or the ODBC 13 Driver for SQL Server Preview. These drivers let you to encrypt the plain text data then store the encrypted data inside SQL Server 2016 or Azure SQL Database. You can then decrypt the data using one of the suitable drivers.
The new driver also adds support for Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which allow your web server to use Unicode characters for the server name so adding support for more languages. The driver lets you convert a Unicode serverName to ASCII compatible encoding (Punycode) when required during a connection.
The support for Ubuntu in the Linux ODBC drivers is also new, joining RedHat and SUSE. The new version also updates the drivers to unixODBC driver manager 2.3.1 support